Sunday, December 18, 2005

1911 Columbus Christmas Bird Count

When I arrived at Caribou this morning about 6:35, the parking lot was crowded and my usual table was in use. About 15 nice looking, well-dressed (in winter outerwear) 30-somethings were gathered and chatting quietly and happily. It turns out they are part of the Christmas Bird Count, a nation wide activity, but they were covering just a small area in our community. They had maps and a long list of birds--most of which I've never heard of. Here's what they've been finding in Columbus the last few years:

"Strictly urban birds, like pigeons, starlings, and house sparrows have all increased to the point where they have become part of the background of many of our cityscapes. However, other supposedly ‘wilder’ birds have been adapting to our suburban areas, including Coopers and Red-tailed Hawks, Red-bellied and Downy woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees, robins, Carolina Wrens, Dark-eyed Juncos, and American Goldfinches. Many of these birds are prospering due to the huge concentration of feeders in the city, while others take advantage of our extensive plantings of fruiting ornamental trees like the Hawthorn and Bradford Pear. If the weather is not too severe, large numbers of these species should be found in every area of Columbus.

Increasingly, we are seeing hardy strays and wintering birds that were formerly rare or unknown from here during December. Our list of wintering waterfowl has slowly grown as small numbers of teal, wood ducks, and shovelers have started to stick around in different ice-free ponds or creeks. Sapsuckers are now wintering in fair numbers in our ravines and parks. Phoebes have shown up increasingly in December and January, but have somehow missed the count period. Cedar Waxwings and hermit thrushes are also quite regular, probably due to our fruit trees. Warblers other than yellow-rumped have started to stay as well: we had pine warblers in 2002 and 2003 (count period) and an Orange-crowned also in 2003. It’s probably just a matter of time before we find a Yellowthroat, Palm, or a Black-throated Green. We will be hoping to see all of these birds on count day. And you never know what true rarity, like a Rufous Hummingbird (2003), will suddenly appear. That’s what makes a CBC so fun."

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