19 December 2010

In the bleak midwinter: Christmas Bird Count

I have no explanation for this. Read on....

It was bitterly cold at 6:00 this morning, overcast and trying to snow. I know this because we were bundled up to the gills and out in it, participating in the annual 111th Christmas Bird Count. This is a winter census of birds in the Western Hemisphere, carried out by thousands upon thousands of volunteers. It's as wonderful an example of citizen science as you could wish for, and the data acquired help enormously in figuring out changes in bird populations, migration routes and habitats.

Try telling yourself that as you put on the sixth layer of cold-weather gear and head out before sunrise into a freezing-fog day. Even most self-respecting birds aren't out in these conditions.

But we managed to turn up 300+ birds representing 20 species, even in the fog. In the process, we also turned up evidence of a mad Christmas tree decorator in the wild. We love this part of the world--we never know what we will see next.  Now we are thawing out and going over the pictures. Enjoy.

Someone with an odd Christmas ornament fixation placed random decorations in the trees along Rapid Creek. Whoever you are, you're nuts and we love you.

Freezing fog coming in over Cowboy Hill.

If you look carefully, you'll spot yet another green Christmas tree ornament.

And here's another one. At least this one's in an evergreen.

Gene, the Bird Whisperer.

Yep, there's another one. Someone went to a LOT of trouble....

Flora on the frozen tiny wetland.

Canada geese coming in through the fog.

Geese heading to the north.

The hill is disappearing in the fog.

Rapid Creek turning icy even as we watch.

Not exactly wildlife, the mallards were clearly hoping that we could not read the signs forbidding the feeding of waterfowl.

Irate, or perhaps just cold, chickadee staring at us.

House on the prairie on a cold day.

Last and best bird sighting of the day: an adult bald eagle. This is the closest we could get to it.

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