White Christmas Bird Count

photographs and text by Brian Willson

Today being Christmas Bird Count day, I rose before dawn, had a good-sized breakfast, took dog out, and set off for the Rockland Breakwater, where I met fellow counters Kristen, Paul, Ron, Joe, and Paula. The sun rose in a golden line along the southeastern horizon. That golden line turned out to be a remnant clear patch, though, because the rest of the sky had gone overcast. In fact, it just might’ve been the coldest morning of the season—which didn’t surprise me, considering our recent run of frigid, icy CBC weather—but there wasn’t much wind, and the walk out across the harbor seemed almost mild.

Highlights were a fast-moving merlin, four species of gull (I only saw three, having missed the great black-backed), horned and red-necked grebes, surf scoters, and a seal. Oh, and the fact that it began to snow.

And the snow grew heavier and continued for the rest of the morning. We walked the grounds of the Samoset Resort, where our friend Don had seen a lesser scaup in one of the ponds along the golf course. Yep, there it was, in the falling snow. Meanwhile, about a hundred Canada geese played through, which was not exactly a surprise. Then Ron thought he heard a yellow-rumped warbler and crashed off into the woods to look for it. And by-God-found it. (It turned out to be the only warbler seen in our entire section today.)

After that we took a little side-trip to a yard in the neighborhood, where a red-bellied woodpecker had been reported at a backyard feeder, and we found that, too. (Kristen spotted it first.) Also tree sparrows, titmice, chickadees, hairy woodpeckers, starlings, a mourning dove, a song sparrow. It turned out to be a productive little side-trip.

Not much at the Sea View Cemetery, but Clam Cove delivered a Bonaparte’s gull and an eagle. And a stop up at the entrance to the Bear Hill subdivision proved fruitful: three hooded merganser, two females and a male. (The male kept chasing one of the females around, and not in a loving way.) And at Chickawaukie Lake, we counted about six hundred coots.

Then we stopped for lunch and conversation, and I skipped out on the afternoon.

Since Jack had been home alone for about six hours, on my return we took off for Beech Hill. A nice, brisk hike. You could see the huge raft of Chickawaukie coots all the way from up there. And I heard the voice of a crow.

Tonight it’s cold. I do believe the coldest night of the season so far (although not particularly cold for this season). Me? I’m still thinking about all those birds.