Sunday, December 16, 2012

2012 Christmas Bird Count

As another year draws to a close, it can mean only one thing to local birdwatchers - the annual Christmas Bird Count. This event is run every year around this time and takes place not only right across North America, but increasingly further south too, well into the Neotropical region. Though these events can only give the briefest of insights into our bird populations, this has nevertheless become a fine tradition over the years and is a great excuse to get out and make your birding count. As the light closes in outside my window, the bulk of the count is done, with just a few sorties still to be made to look or listen for owls, or to maybe flush up a woodcock or two. Still to come though - the weigh-in; the evening get-together when totals are added up, stories are exchanged, and lots of food gets tucked away!

For me, the best bird has been a Least Sandpiper, only an irregular winterer this far north, but many other gems were found by others, both while scouting yesterday and on the count itself today. Yesterday's birds mostly came from Cape May Point State Park and around the point itself and included the continuing Townsend's Warbler as well as Black-and-white, Yellow-rumped, Palm and Nashville Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, two House Wrens and the continuing male King Eider. The Avalon Seawatch added Razorbill and a late Laughing Gull to the count-week birds and Tom Reed reported four Common Redpolls and an Eastern Phoebe at the Woodcock Trail off Rt 47 (part of the Cape May NWR, situated at the west end of Woodcock Lane). White-winged Crossbills were still to be found at Cox Hall Creek WMA yesterday.

Today's goodies included continuing Western Grebe, King Eider and Townsend's Warbler, a Black-headed Gull on the beach at Cape May Point, two Razorbills close to shore and a Little Gull off 2nd Avenue in Cape May, a Lesser Black-backed Gull at Lower Township MUA, an adult Black-legged Kittiwake at the Avalon Seawatch and a fly-over Tundra Swan at Seagrove Avenue. Prize for the big find of the day so far, however, goes to Doug Gochfeld for the LeConte's Sparrow which was found on a recently-purchased piece of state land on the east side of Rt 9, just north of the intersection with Rt 109.