Monday, December 15, 2008

My First Christmas Bird Count-Need Advise Please

I will be doing my first Christmas Bird Count ever this upcoming Saturday!!! At first I was going to do it at Broad Meadow Brook which is a wild life sanctuary near my house. I was then asked by the coordinator whether or not I would like to do it in a different part of the city that doesn't have as many volunteers as they need. I decided to go with the group that is lacking volunteers because that is the way I am ;o). Anyhow, the coordinator to that count contacted me and told me we would be doing it around a lake and will be counting a lot of water birds.

Now some of you may remember that I don't know much about water birds and at one point thought that all ducks were ducks and all geese were geese. I am just learning the difference now. With that said, I am scrambling here and looking at the Peterson Field Guide to try and get a crash course on water bird identification. Does anyone have any web sites that they know of that I should go to in order to learn more so I don't look like a complete newbie Saturday. HA!!
Also, the important questions relating to bird counts such as:

1. How long do they last

2. I am bringing my field guide, binoculars, camera, pen, pad of paper. Is there anything else I should take. I am assuming I should buy a backpack to look like an official birder ;o). I am also going to bring some water and a lunch?? (is a lunch too geeky????)

3. What do you actually do at a bird count. Do you sit in a bush and count birds???

HA!! Seriously, I have no idea what to expect. I am very excited about it but have a lot of questions.

Can one of you expert bird counters out there help me out please. :o)

Thanks as always.

PS: Yes I am posting really quickly here as I am in the office until 7pm tonight and wanted to make this blog entry in the 15 minutes I have before my next meeting. Christmas vacation cannot come soon enough for me!


Steve B said...

1) The one's I used to do lasted from before sunup to sundown. You want to get there early and listen for owls. Your director will tell you what your count period is. If you are near water, you should have some Eastern Screech-owls. The Great Horned owls will hoot around sunrise.

2) I always brought some food. If you are going to an area that doesn't have bears, mountain lions, wolverines, you should be safe!

A day pack is good for all the stuff you are bringing!

3) You should be on your feet and covering the habitat. I don't know how big your area is. It helps to go out there for several weeks and see what is in the area. Lucky for you, ducks are not hard.

I hope you have fun!

Shellmo said...

Steve B covered it all! And no - you're not a geek for bringing a lunch - you're smart in my opinion!

Deborah Godin said...

Sounds like you've had some first-class advice. I'd definitely toss in a couple of power bars!

pat said...

I saw that you like to see photos of doves in peoples is a link to a photo from this past spring of the dove that nested right by my door. She coo'd softly whenever I passed by!

Kallen305 said...

Thanks Steve!! I will take all your adivse. I am already thinking about what I will pack for snacks!! HA!

Shelley, I figured most people would bring a lunch but wasn't sure as I am new to this. I couldn't go from sun up to sun down without food though so a lot of granola bars are in order.

Deb, I love the Power Bars and those are included too.

Hi Pat. Thank you so much for your link. I went over there and love the photo you took of the dove. You are one lucky woman having all of those nests. I had one this year and it was squirrles. :o(. HA!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Good Luck, Kallen... I expect a full report when you get home.. And to think---you'll be an EXPERT!!!!

dAwN said...

Good luck Kallen...I look forward to hearing how your birdie count went..

Jayne said...

EEK, water birds! I'd be lost too Kallen. Just follow along with the others there and soak in all you can learn. Have fun! :c)

Liz Stanley said...

Hi, I'm Liz and found your site because you linked to my photo gallery. I'm by no means an expert CBC'er, but I've been on a couple. Definitely bring along food/water along. It won't add any more geekiness to your day, because you are already embracing your inner geek by doing a CBC in the first place! ;)

I did one bird count for half a day and another from dawn to dusk, so I guess it varies. You can stake out some locations like bird feeders, etc, and drive around looking for birds, or hike in a park, etc. It all depends on the area you are in. Your coordinator should give you a checklist to turn in.

Make sure you only count the max number of birds you see at any given time. So if you see 10 cardinals in one place, and later see 5, only count 10 rather than 15. That way you can be sure you aren't counting the same individuals multiple times.

If you find anything extremely unusual, be sure to take a photo for verification. Last year I had a yellow-bellied sapsucker at my feeder (rare during an MN winter) and I had to take a photo to send in.

Also, if you're going with a group of people, where someone else is driving, if you are prone to motion sickness make sure to take something for it! In my experience a CBC involves a lot of slow driving, starts and stops, and backing up. Plus you might be looking in a field guide, writing things down, etc. That can definitely lead to motion sickness if you are prone to it like I am! I'm going on a CBC this weekend and plan to take Dramamine because it will be a lot of driving.

Most of all, have fun!!

dAwN said...


Kallen305 said...

Liz, thanks for all of the info. I have seen all of your great photos over at the Garden Web and wanted to put your link here so I can check for updates and introduce others in the bird blogging world to your photographs. I love your feeder cam and feeding station. THAT is what I would love to have one day.

Thank you so much for the info. I would never have thought about morning sickness. While I normally don't get it, I may consider taking something if it won't make me drowzy.

Also thanks for the birding count method, I would never have thought of that either. Luckilly, I believe I will be with an expert and I am going to be serving as an extra set of eyes. This is going to be such a great experience for me because I will be able to learn off of him. I can't wait.

Dawn, HA!! I just did the 6 random things a week ago. Sorry.

troutbirder said...

Relax. Have fun. Meet people. Tell them your a newbie there to learn. My experience is they will be more than happy to show you the ropes.

Rambling Woods said...

I have never done one, but I would love to be able to especially for waterfowl..Exciting...You've had good suggestions from people who know Kallen...Then you can start doing Project Feeder Watch in your own yard...See how it all leads to more birds..LOL..

Rich said...

Hi Kalen,

I made it to Oregon. Good Flights.
We are supposed to get snow and freezing rain tonight and freezing rain for hours tomorrow. Kind of ugly weather.

Liz Stanley said...

I've had plenty of MOTION sickness but no experience with MORNING sickness! If going on a CBC brings on the latter, well, I can't really say that's happened to me! ;)

We're supposed to get a bit of snow here in MN ourselves. Actually that's good because the birds really come out during a good snowstorm. At least the ones in my backyard do.


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