Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Bird Count

If I wrote for Wheel of Fortune on television, I would use this title in the Before and After category. I want to include our first Christmas Bird Count, but also want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, so here goes! As retirees, Dick and I don't get up before dawn very often now, but the Christmas Bird Count at Otter Creek Park started at 8 am. As one expects at Christmas, it was cold and overcast, but we layered up and thought we could take it. Otter Creek Park used to belong to the City of Louisville, even though it is located in Meade County not far from Ft. Knox. It hosts the YMCA's Camp Piomingo, an we drove there regularly when the kids were camp age, and Dick served on the board. Now the City no longer runs the park and it has been closed for almost two years. Apparently the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife people are going to take it on as a recreation area rather than a wildlife management area. Here's hoping they make a success of it. The park has a spectacular overlook on a large horseshoe bend in the Ohio River and is a favorite spot for many people. This is the 111th Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Audubon Society, but the first for Dick and me. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action. Each group takes an area with a radius of 7.5 miles, resulting in 70-80 squares miles of potential territory to cover. Six of us took Otter Creek Park, and other friends from Beckham Bird Club headed out into the rest of the circle. Unlike our usual bird hikes, we counted individuals of each species as well as the different species. At first, things were very quiet and we saw few birds. I wonder if the chattering of our teeth scared them away! We drove down to the river and sighted 5 Black Scoters and a Bald Eagle. The Bluebirds hopped in the treetops eating mistletoe berries. Then the sun broke through the clouds and birds and birders both sang with joy for the warmth!
For the most part, we saw the birds one expects in a Kentucky winter outing - Juncos, Robins, Chickadees, Titmice, Gold Finches, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Carolina Wrens, and murders of Crows. Last weekend other members of Beckham Bird Club found 90 species in their Jefferson County count. We got lucky with the Woodpeckers though, and saw almost all the Kentucky Woodpeckers except a Sapsucker, including Downy, Hairy, Flickers, and Red Bellied. Then we found six Red Headed Woodpeckers chasing each other around in the trees, something rather unusual for this part of the state. Dick and I had to leave around noon, and as we stood in the parking lot, I noticed a small bird hanging upside down in the pine cones. It turned out to be a Red Breasted Nuthatch, another bird not often found around here! We haven't received the total numbers or species list from Barbara yet. We saw some Turkeys as we drove out, and Barbara said she saw a Barred Owl too, so I look forward to the totals.
The Christmas Bird Count may become a new Christmas tradition for us. I've been thinking about those traditions during the last few weeks. Since our children are grown and moved out, our traditions have changed a bit. We still use the same old ornaments though, and I mean that in a good sense. Some are survivors of my childhood and bring back wonderful memories, but I won't say how old they are! Others were given to us as wedding gifts since we got married in late November, 37 years ago, and we cherish all of them. We will spend Christmas Day with our immediate family, and my brother and sister from Cincinnati will join us on Sunday. Family is important, and it seems harder to get together as we get older ourselves.
The cats are fascinated by all the hub-bub, of course. We are careful not to put down the tree skirt until it can be covered with boxes, since the cats think the tree and fancy skirt are just for them! Binx is giving his opinion of all the decorations, and moves from the mantle to the steps, to the back of the sofa to get just the right angle. Dick and I wish all of you a wonderful and safe Christmas Holiday and a birdy New Year!

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