Our First Christmas Bird Count

by Derek Martin, 16, Delano, TN | Apr 3, 2021 | 0 comments

Red-winged Blackbirds
Red-winged Blackbirds. Photo © Rusty Dodson/Dreamstime.com.

On Friday, our good friend Nathan came to our place and asked if we would be interested in helping him with the Christmas Bird Count.

“Of course,” I answered. “Just this morning Clement and I were wishing we could have someone to help us!”

“Okay, great,” he said. “I’ll go look for birds on the Tree Farm and along the Hiwassee River, and you can look wherever else you want to.”

“Sure,” I answered. “You’re planning to do it tomorrow, right?”

“That’s what I was thinking,” he answered. “I’ll be back tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. to add them up.”
At 6:30 a.m. my brother Clement and I each grabbed binoculars, bird book, pen, and notebook, and started out.

The day was dawning with a slightly overcast sky, and a gentle breeze was blowing.
“Let’s go for the open fields first,” Clement suggested. “Then on the way back we’ll swing by the raspberry/blackberry patch and get all those sparrows that love hiding there.”

Together we slowly made our way out to the apple orchard that borders one side of our farm.

“Look at all those birds!” I exclaimed.

“Where?” Clement asked.

“There under the first apple tree in that low grass,” I answered.
“A flock of twenty-five Palm Warblers,” Clement decided.

As I was writing those up, Clement suddenly exclaimed, “Here comes a large flock of meadowlarks!”

Quickly we started counting. There were over 125 total in that flock and more still in the neighbor’s pasture where the flock had come from.

Then the grackles, cowbirds, and Red-winged Blackbirds came flying over. It seemed the line would never end, but finally at three minutes the end came.

By the time we returned to the house, we had seen twenty-five American Pipits and lots of sparrows, robins, starlings, bluebirds, Blue Jays, crows, and vultures. We also found a few Northern Harriers, Cooper’s and Red-tailed Hawks, and, last of all, two American Kestrels.
“I do hope we can see the Peregrine Falcon that has been flying over the last few days,” Clement said.

“If we look for it, it probably won’t come over,” I answered, laughing at the thought.
After lunch, Clement suggested, “Let’s walk a little way up the creek and look for the Red-headed Woodpeckers that nest there.”

“I’m agreed,” I answered.

On the way, we saw quite a few kinglets, both Ruby and Golden-crowned, and also a few Belted Kingfishers. Then just before heading back, we found three Red-headed Woodpeckers, and, best of all, three Bald Eagles sitting in an old tree!

It certainly was an enjoyable day, and we hope to do it again this year.

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