Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Bird Count

It was December 18, 1993, when my son and I ventured out on our first Greater Ozarks Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. At the time, we had no idea of the luck that spread over us on that day and in the years following. The "piece of the pie" that we were assigned to was then, and is still today, the finest chunk of habitat in the Springfield circle. It includes the beautiful and spacious water supply for the city, Fellows Lake.

View Larger Map
Fellows Lake is not so big that it cannot be fully covered, a scope view from the north shoreline can reach the main body of the lake. Only a southeast extending arm in out of sight in the early morning of the CBC count but we make sure that we pick that up in the slanting rays of the late afternoon sunlight on CBC day.
On that day in 1993, all the birds were magical. I remember vividly my son Nathan saying that, on this day every single bird counts........., even the single Starling on the line was added to the 20, 000 others, blowing away my scientific concept of "significant digits"! I will never forget our views of an immature Cooper's Hawk on a fence post. It is a species that is regularly encountered in modern southwest Missouri CBCs, but in 1993 it required documentation. On top of that, it was a lifer for both my son and me. We carefully described to each other every detail of the reasonably cooperative accipiter. Ultimately, our documentation was accepted, a beginning birder triumph.

We learned quickly that our leader, former Springfield Conservation Nature Center director and current Director of Field Support or the National Audubon Society, Dave Catlin, was all about the number of species that we accumulated for the day. At lunch we would carefully identify the gaps in our list, and we would target specific habitats to fill them in.

When I think back, I am amazed that we were invited to be part of his "elite" birder team. I guess Dave probably saw the potential and precocious birding ability of my son, and thought that he was an excellent bet! I just happened to be his driver!

Speaking of that team of elite birders..... Although my son is now unable to join us since his move to Tarheels land in North Carolina, we still will be putting together a formidable group. The most noteable to bloggers is world traveler, founder of Birdstack, author of Search and Serendipidity, and birder phenom David Ringer. See the current Birds of the Solistice count day link on the sidebar.

Second is Bo Brown, long time musician, bohemian, and birder extraordinaire, whose work, along with Dave Catlin's is sited here and here. Bo has birded around the world, participating as a professional bird researcher at various locales from Point Reyes to Northwest Arkansas and far beyond.

Third is Charley Burwick, retired from the FAA; he joined Nathan and I on that "first for him, too" CBC count in 1993. Charley has risen through the ranks to become an excellent birder. He is currently the president of both Audubon Missouri and the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society.

And so, we set out to our Fellows Lake sector again this Saturday. It is my 16th year in a row to participate in southwest Missouri CBCs. The excitement is palpable, and I just can't wait to see what turns up this year.............. on that very special day when "every single bird counts".


N8 said...

Good Luck!

Greg said...

Best bird was probably LeConte's Sparrow. We found it in some grasses just north of Fellows Lake. All in all, a very fun morning.
I had to leave the group at noon.
Looking forward to our NC trip.

Paulo Boute said...

Hi Greg,

You have a very nice BLOG!


& - of course: Happy New Year!!!


Paulo Boute.

Greg said...

Thanks for dropping by, Paulo! I visited your website. Wow! I'd like to put that on my list of things to do!


noflickster said...

Looking forward to your summary of this year's findings, but I really enjoyed your reflections. I almost did the Little Rock, AR CBC but wasn't able to devote a full day away from family activities, but I did get out for some birding: Le Conte's Sparrows were a highlight, along with Smith's Longspurs. Now, back to the snowy Northeast . . . .

BTW, I've tagged you for the "six random things" meme, I suspect those words are either the most welcome or most dreaded for any blogger. Apologies if you've done this already and I missed it!