Monday, January 27, 2014

World Bird Sanctuary Christmas Bird Count 2011

In the birding community it’s a well-known fact that dyed-in-the-wool birdwatchers are like postmen….neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, etc., etc., will keep them from their appointed rounds (or in this case, a Christmas Bird Count).  Following is World Bird Sanctuary Director of Education Mike Zieloski’s description of one such memorable outing in 2011.

We met at daybreak at our Visitor Information Center.

It was cold—so cold that I was worried no one would show up.

Dauntless birds Nathan Thoele, Emily Hall and Cassandra Braun

But then….all bundled up…. they came out of the darkness, to meet and to plan our strategy to count the wild birds.  People actually showed up!   Needless to say, I was relieved.  It was so cold.   Nathan Thoele showed up.  Emily Hall showed up.  Mary Elise Okenfuss showed up.  Cassandra J. Braun showed up.  I was thankful that these crazy people actually showed up on this bitterly cold day.  It was so so cold.

Why were five obviously touched people preparing to count birds on World Bird Sanctuary's 300 acres on this frigid day?  It was time for the annual Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

We hiked about 2 miles on our property.  We counted all the birds we saw or heard.
Emily, Cassandra and I could identify some of the birds by their sound.  Cassandra kept our list, recording all the species and individuals counted.  She would submit our data to ebird, the Cornell web site that records bird sightings from all over the world.  During my visit to Cornell in June 2012 I was told that ebird is the 2nd biggest data user on the internet, after the US Military.

I cannot remember the number of species we saw or heard.  However, some of the vivid memories are of the little flock of Bluebirds, foraging and resting in a sunny ravine--sunny and safe from the wind with their feathers flashing vibrant blue against the brownish backdrop of winter trees.

There were also the woodpeckers--and the final bird that Cassandra and I saw as we made our way to the Nature Center…a Hermit Thrush.  Yes a Thrush!   Did you know that Missouri has a Thrush that regularly spends the winter in the St. Louis area?  Yes, it is the rusty tail colored, brown drab, black spotted throat and breast Hermit Thrush! 

We saw Robins, too.  Guess What?   American Robins and Eastern Bluebirds are Thrushes, too.  So, we saw three species of Thrushes in Missouri, in winter, in the cold.
So cold you could feel it freezing the hairs in your nose.

I am grateful these four volunteers braved the early hour and the cold to observe and count birds with me.  We created a memory of a lifetime--camaraderie, birds, and a little contribution to the scientific database.

Did I mention it was cold that morning?  It was very, very cold.

Submitted by Michael Zeloski, WBS Director of Education 

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