Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Count the Rings

I've tallied up my totals for the 2009 Great Backyard Bird Count, and the winners are...
  • Canada Goose: 4
  • Mallard: 43
  • Common Goldeneye: 2
  • American Coot: 29
  • Northern Flicker: 1
  • Black Billed Magpie: 4
  • Black Capped Chickadee: 2
  • Spotted Towhee: 1
  • House Finch: 16
  • Pine Siskin: 58
  • American Goldfinch: 16
  • House Sparrow: 3
  • Lesser Goldfinch: 4
  • American Wigeon: 1

Altogether, the total is 184 birds representing 14 different species found during four separate counts in three unique locations. I'm thrilled with the results, and it is fascinating to see the changes in some birding populations; pine siskins, in particular, are much more populous this year than last.

Ironically, on the final day of the count -- the one day when I did not submit a checklist -- I added a new bird to my life list, the ring billed gull. During a casual stroll through Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, I was idly watching the mallards, Canada geese, and gulls that I'd mistakenly assumed were California gulls, Utah's state bird. After a closer look, however, I realized that their legs were yellow rather than a pale gray blue, which is the coloration of California gulls' winter plumage. A closer observation revealed a few other details, and the ring billed gull flew onto my list.

You never know when you might find a new bird, or where. An area you regularly visit may suddenly be attractive to a passing migrant, or you may discover that a previous identification was in error. Just as the Great Backyard Bird Count encourages birders to reevaluate their local bird populations annually, we can all benefit from keeping vigilant about the birds we see every day. You never know when their identities, populations, or behavior might surprise you.

No comments: