Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Bird Counts

This weekend I participated in two Audubon Christmas Bird Counts ( The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is an annual event that birders across the eastern hemisphere get involved with. From Alaska to Antarctica, birders have established CBC circles in which they count birds in every year. Each of these circles has a radius of 7.5 miles. The birders then divide up the circle and make sure that people cover all areas of the CBC area. The date of CBCs differ from circle to circle, but they are required to fall between two weeks before Christmas to two weeks after Christmas.

In the Lehigh Valley area, there are several counts to help out with. Two of these counts, the Lehigh Valley Count (mainly Allentown area) and the Bethlehem-Hellertown-Easton (which, as the name suggests, covers Bethlehem, Hellertown, and Easton) are centered around the Lehigh Valley. Two others, the Wild Creek-Little Gap and the Merrill Creek CBCs are not centered in the valley, but are in the vicinity. The Merrill Creek count is mainly in New Jersey, but a small section stretches into PA. The Wild Creek-Little Gap is mainly north of the Kittatinny Ridge (Blue Mountain), and stretches from Beltzville to Kunkletown.

Dark-eyed Juncos, like this one, are always numerous during the winter months, and today was no exception.

This year, I participated in the Lehigh Valley and the Wild Creek-Little Gap counts. This was my fifth year for the LV CBC and my third year for the WC-LG CBC. The LV count has many more participants (last year,45 compared to 12), but similar number of species to Wild Creek.

Yesterday, December 19th, the Lehigh Valley CBC has held, despite the threatening weather report. My "team", which for most of the day was Terry Master, Barbara Malt, and me birded around out area. We saw very few birds, and we finished early, around 2pm when it began to snow.

Today was the Wild Creek-Little Gap count. For this count, I count birds in the Kunkletown area, which includes my house. This morning, there were 5 inches of snow on the ground when I got up to call for owls, and the temperature was at 19F. Despite my efforts, the only owl response I got was an Eastern Screech-Owl. Around 7:00, when the sky began to brighten, another screech-owl tremoloed from across the field and White-throated Sparrows began chirping.

I walked around the house a bit, but other than several juncos, birds were absent. Around 7:40, my dad and I got in the car and traveled to some local birding hotspots, which included a housing development and a grocery store parking lot. Well... we did find some Ring-billed Gulls in the parking lot and the housing development has a small lake, which held lots of Canada Geese, Mallards, and 4 Hooded Mergansers. The real hotspots today were the grassy fields around the area. While driving around, we found several with lots of juncos, but the one across from my house was the most productive with Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, 8 American Tree Sparrows, and 110 Dark-eyed Juncos.

American Tree Sparrows, a cheerful winter bird, were hanging out with flocks of juncos today.

Later in the day, I took a walk in the woods by my house where I found 2(!) Brown Creepers along with several more American Tree Sparrows. I finished up at 5pm, having birded for 12 hours. I ended up with only 29 species and 1453 individual birds. Here is the day's list:


Hooded Merganser-4

Canada Goose-779

Ring-billed Gull-4

Red-tailed Hawk-1

Eastern Screech-Owl-2

Mourning Dove-12

Belted Kingfisher-1

Red-bellied Woodpecker-5

Downy Woodpecker-10

Hairy Woodpecker-1

Eastern Bluebird-3

Hermit Thrush-1

Northern Mockingbird-5

Blue Jay-14

American Crow-91

Black-capped Chickadee-18

Tufted Titmouse-13

White-breasted Nuthatch-8

Brown Creeper-2

Carolina Wren-3

European Starling-98

Song Sparrow-4

American Tree Sparrow-15

White-throated Sparrow-12

Dark-eyed Junco-195

American Goldfinch-6

Northern Cardinal-17

House Sparrow-7

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