How your day starts, when doing a big day or Christmas Bird Count, is obviously key to the rest of the day. This past Tuesday, Corey from 10,000 Birds and Matt Medler and myself were participating in the Catskill-Coxsackie Christmas Bird Count. We would actually be covering much of eastern Columbia County north of the City of Hudson.
Pulling out of my driveway a little after 6 am, with temperatures only a few ticks above zero, I was dismayed to found that the wonderful City of Albany had plowed me in yet again. Being lazy and already running a tad late, I tried to drive through it. I didn’t make it and got stuck. So I had to call my Wife Danika and she helped me shovel out the car and drove it while I gave it a good push. Soon enough I had picked up my passengers and we were on our way to Section A.
This territory unlike some of the other territory I cover for other Christmas Bird Counts, is more suburban than rural. What rural areas there are were mostly small farms, fields and hedgerows. This may explain why we had a ridiculous amount of Red-tailed Hawks, 38 all total for the day. We also had good numbers of other field birds such American Tree Sparrow(not as many as in Saratoga), Snow Bunting and Horned Lark. A Lapland Longspur that was feeding with two Savannah Sparrows along a roadside was the highlight of the day.
Although this territory has considerable amounts of water with the Hudson River, we were dismayed to find it largely frozen. We were able to find a good group of Mallards and American Black Ducks, along with Canada Geese on the Ice. A nice flock of Common Mergansers flew by and we found a very cold looking Belted Kingfisher as well. We had little luck with Bald Eagles with only 2 sightings, one adult and one immature.
This count is somewhat famous for its half-hardies upstate. Our sector had our fair share with Corey managing to spish up a Hermit Thrush and later would dodge a freight train and an Amtrak train to track down a Swamp Sparrow. A nice flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds (how often do you hear that?), a couple of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and good numbers of Northern Mockingbird and Carolina Wren. Song Sparrows came in with 8, and 3 Savannah Sparrows were a nice find. Raptors outside of Red-tailed Hawks were limited, we had one Northern Harrier (A Gray Ghost no less), 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks and 1 Cooper’s Hawk.
Since this is a winter for winter finches, we had a few. Matt and I heard a lone Common Redpoll flyover at one point and we all got a good look at one Common Redpoll and I was able to see an additional 5 on a thistle feeder before they all flew off. We also had 9 Purple Finches (all females) and over 100 American Goldfinches (including 40+ in one field).
Notable misses include, Cedar Waxwing, Brown Creeper, Ruffed Grouse, Golden-Crowned Kinglet and Great Blue Heron. Eastern Bluebird numbers were respectable, American Robins were in the thousands as usual and European Starlings were getting upwards of 5,000 individuals. 2 Snow Geese at the end of a long skein of Canada Geese at the end of the day, were also good finds.
All in all I had a great day birding (nice to meet you Matt), we found one good bird and finished they day with 49 species in our sector, not bad for Mid December! Be sure you check out Corey’s tale over at 10,000 Birds, where I’m sure he’ll have a photo or two to share as well as the days complete totals!
It goes to show that just because your day starts by getting stuck in your driveway on a snow bank, it doens’t mean the rest of your day will be bad as well. Even when we did get slightly stuck later (Corey and Matt make good pushers if anyone cares), we discovered one of our Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers there, so luck was with us!
My next CBC is (hopefully) the Southern Albany County CBC this Saturday!