Penelopedia: This & That in Northfield

Syndicate content
Updated: 1 hour 34 min ago

Christmas Bird Count 2014: Quiet

Sun, 12/21/2014 - 9:04am
Participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count has become a tradition I look forward to eagerly. It's a chance to devote half a day, or more, to looking for birds and documenting the number of each species we see, as well as our time spent and mileage covered by car and on foot, to aid in interpreting the numbers reported. I've also written here about the Christmas Bird Counts of 2009, 20102011, and 2013. As in the past, we were assigned to a rural area east and south of Northfield, as well as a good portion of Northfield's east side.

Relatively mild at about 30-32 F. all morning, it was also gray and chillingly damp, though thankfully not windy. Ponds were frozen, while creeks were open. The mantra of the day for our group of four turned out to be, "Boy, it's really quiet out there." While we saw some decent action at a few homesteads that had well-stocked feeders, we came up dry at many others, including those at my own house. It wasn't always literally quiet, as we had an ample number of crows cawing raucously, but there were a lot of places that seemed unexpectedly bird-free.

Open water at the creek west of Dennison -- but no birds
The photo above is taken from the highway bridge just west of Dennison. Every year I get my hopes up for this creek, which often offers open water and seems so inviting from a human perspective, but once again there was nothing to see.

Here are our results for the morning. Occasionally birds (mostly chickadees and nuthatches) were identified by sound though not seen.

  • 2 Canada geese
  • 55 mallards, seen in many small groups overhead, flying with their characteristic rapid wingbeats, and in a large congregation on the open creek in the golf course
  • 1 ring-necked pheasant. Pheasant numbers are down so much in the last few years that this was now considered a lucky sighting.
  • 1 sharp-shinned hawk seen flying through woods (I missed seeing this. Darn!)
  • 1 red-tailed hawk
  • 19 rock pigeons (your standard barnyard or urban pigeon) on silos
  • 5 mourning doves
  • 1 red-bellied woodpecker
  • 5 downy woodpeckers
  • 1 hairy woodpecker
  • 12 blue jays
  • 52 American crows
  • 14 black-capped chickadees
  • 7 white-breasted nuthatches
  • 43 dark-eyed juncos, including a flock of 35 seen on the west edge of the Sibley School natural area
  • 5 northern cardinals
  • 39 house finches, the majority of them in one large group at a rural homestead with plenty of large trees and well-stocked feeders
  • 22 house sparrows, mostly in one large group at the pond west of Archibald Street and just north of Jefferson Parkway; we first caught sight of a few of them on top of and going into a wood duck box. 
This total of 18 species is the same as our total in 2011 (the last count I can find detailed notes for). Species seen then that we did not see yesterday included the European starling, wild turkey, American robin, American goldfinch, and northern shrike. Species seen yesterday that we did not see in 2011 included Canada goose, ring-necked pheasant, sharp-shinned hawk, rock pigeon, and hairy woodpecker. I always hope to see snow buntings or horned larks for the CBC, but there were none to be seen yesterday, nor (ambitious hope) a snowy owl, for which there have been sightings in Rice County in the past week or so.
Non-avian sightings included plenty of squirrels and, notably, a mink that was being eyed warily by a pair of mallards on Spring Creek on the east edge of Northfield.
I was happy to see several new participants at our Northfield-based count, including my longtime friend Mary, who came along in our group, as well as the now-familiar friends who are faithful to this effort. Thanks as always to Gene Bauer for organizing the bird count for the Northfield area, Gene and his wife Susan for their hospitality for the pre-count breakfast and post-count lunch, and the other bird enthusiasts, both experienced and developing, who showed up and helped make it a fun day of comradery and citizen science.
Categories: Citizens

Bookmark and Share