On Dec.19, 2015, I and my Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) team spent eleven hours counting both species and number of all the birds we could find in two areas that each had a 15-mile diameter. One area was just south of SGG and included Leone Price Park on Stilesboro Road and the Green Meadows Preserve on Dallas Hwy. across from The Avenue. The other area included Lake Acworth.
This was the 116 Audubon CBC. It is the nation’s largest-running citizen science bird project. It takes place in the US, Canada, and many countries in the Western Hemisphere from Dec.14 through Jan.5. The Great Backyard Bird Count, which SGG will be participating in, takes place over President’s Day weekend in Feb.
While we have been having a more mild winter so far, Dec. 19 was one of our colder days. I was walking at Price Park at 6:30 am; it was dark and 28°. I was hoping to hear an owl, but no luck. Price did reward us with ten White-throated sparrows, however.
White-throated Sparrow Cornell Labs
This sparrow is one of our winter visitors and has a lovely song, which sounds like “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody.”
Green Meadows was my favorite birding spot of the day. Walking the trails through the high grass meadow gave us most of our species for this area. I am always thrilled when I find Eastern Meadowlarks, and five of them flew out of the tall grass. One very beautiful male landed on a branch in the sunlight and bared his signature yellow and black breast to us.
Eastern Meadowlark Cornell Labs
Along one of the trails, we saw forty field sparrows flitting in and out of the grasses. I followed where they were going and saw about five of them on a red ant hill. They were eating the ants. I had not witnessed that behavior before, so seeing something new was a thrill.
Field Sparrow Cornell Labs
I then heard the racket of many American Crows. I knew they were probably mobbing a hawk or an owl, so my teammate and I headed toward the crows. Sure enough, they were mobbing a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The hawk stood his ground, or tree branch in this case, and the crows finally gave up.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Cornell Labs
My team ended the day with 69 species, our personal best. That evening all the teams of the Marietta Audubon gathered at our coordinator’s home for great food and stories of our day. In all, we had seen 87 species. Bob Zaremba and his wife, Deb, who had helped out at SGG’s Hummingbird Banding Day, had a very rare, for both winter and Georgia, Calliope Hummingbird in their yard. This is a Hummingbird usually only found out West.
Calliope Hummingbird Cornell Labs
I had walked 12 miles, driven 33, endured staying outside in 28 degree weather and loved it all. While I try to find as many birds as I can, I still take time to embrace the beauty and behaviors of the birds I am counting. While I had seen Field Sparrows hundreds of times, I got to observe them doing something I had never seen. Experiences like that keep the sport of birding forever new.
Pat Pepper mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org