CBC 2009

Where have all the birdies gone?

For the first time in a while, the weather was anticipated to be decent for the dogs and humans alike.  Getting up at 4:45 a.m. again, the preparations seemed leisurely, in part because we didn’t have to do much for the dogs.  (I had put the heated dog bowl out the night before—an extension cord let it reach to just beyond the porch wall.  And no need to put out extra dog beds in the dog houses.)  We headed out at around 6:30 a.m.; when we got to DOW, a good number of people were already there.  F had e-mailed me to see if she could join our team; I said we’d enjoy that but she should check with S (the compiler), since last year I think we surprised her by nabbing F.  Indeed, with several regulars missing and several new people joining the count, S did need her elsewhere.  So she went with R of DOW.

S said that a Trumpeter Swan had been reported around the farm ponds;  J from the Rosy-finch feeders in Maysville last year and his wife had joined this year as counters—hurrah!   While the newer folks figured out where they were going, the 3 of us headed out to area #4.

D & I started down the path toward the fish hatchery as several Mallards and Canada Geese flew overhead; he spotted a HOME right away.  We found a small flock of BCCHs in the trees there, along with a few White-breasted Nuthatches.  At the hatchery, he continued along the river and I joined Z; together, we drove to Frantz Lake to pick him up.  Just as we got out of the car, a flock of 24 Bushtits swirled around our heads and then vanished off across the road—right place at the right time.  We spotted a Bald Eagle on a power pole across the river.  Not much else was going on in the area.  D hadn’t spotted much along the river either, so we headed to Mt. Ouray State Wildlife Area (SWA).  Long story short—we found very little there.  A Marsh Wren sounded off early on; a couple more added to that chatter.  D flushed a Wilson’s Snipe—we’d not had one in this area before.  But no swampies.  No Virginia Rail.  No American Dipper at the river.  We heard several shotgun blasts and saw evidence of duck blood.  We vowed to suggest no more weekend CBCs during hunting season.  D headed way off downriver; we thought he was going to the further-down pickup spot, so we drove there.  Turns out he hadn’t been doing that; we spotted him walking down the road.  Major miscommunication.  But he turned that into a bonus—while he was scanning the fields for Horned Larks (nope), he spotted a Rough-legged Hawk down on the ground.  Those have been getting harder to find in recent years.

We drove to the regular spots—the Rusty Blackbird seep, former feeders, Big Bend.  Not much anywhere, although we did count a lot of Black-billed Magpie.  We were able to find the lone Trumpeter Swan at the farm pond (Hendersons’ pond, I think Ron called it), along with some Green-winged Teal and more Mallards.  We headed to the cemetery with ~24 species around 11 a.m.—ugh.  The cemetery boosted the count somewhat—American Robin, Northern Flicker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, House Finch, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, and Steller’s Jay.  What a surprise that the cemetery would be so productive, especially after the nothingness that was Mt. Ouray SWA.  No Brown Creeper as we had last year.  (Note to self—review creeper and kinglet calls for next year.)  A pretty low count for lunch time, but what can you do…

Everyone comments on the low numbers.  R and R of DOW speculated at lunch that the snow in late Oct/early Nov had driven many species further down and they hadn’t bothered to come back.  The snow had been quite deep until just the week before; so although the ground looked perfect for Horned Larkis now, it would have been too deep last week.  Probably other species had been affected similarly.  When we announced that we hadn’t found any Virginia Rail, T said that she had seen one 2 Fridays ago—so the snow apparently hadn’t affected it.  We vowed to go back after lunch.

And we did.  And still no Virginia Rail or Swam Sparrow.  In fact, we hardly heard a single bird at all.  Unreal.  F had joined us for the afternoon; she and D went down the steep stairs to the river while Z and I stayed up top.  They came back with a Common Merganser and an American Dipper.  The COME would help the group list, although someone had already had a dipper elsewhere.  We called it quits at 3:30 because it was such a discouraging afternoon.  The DOW office was locked, so we headed home and I scanned & e-mailed our list to S that night.  (Note—we should have left a note there.  She was a bit concerned that something had happened to us when we didn’t show up later in the day.)  We got home early enough that D just headed back to Las Animas after making himself some fresh coffee.

45 degrees for a high in C’dale; 15 degrees when we left in the morning; species totals 34 (our team) and 68 (entire count) and 5 species added for count week only.P.S.  On the way back to L’wood the next day, we stopped to drop off recycling in Salida and ran into T.  She asked if we’d found a Virginia Rail—nope.  She said she’d go back and look for it (she had seen only 1 a few days earlier).  S e-mailed the group later that T had found the Virginia Rail and 2 Red-winged Blackbirds to boot.  So they at least got added to the count week count.  Good for her!

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