Saturday, December 18, 2010

Unofficial Turkeys

I spent this morning participating in the Northfield section of the Faribault "circle" of the Christmas Bird Count, as I did last year. This year, unfortunately, Dave had to be away from home, so my 11-year-old son came with me and we were paired up with Dan Kahl, who is the naturalist at the Mount Olivet Conference and Retreat Center. It was great to have the help of such an experienced and affable partner; he was able to quickly make identifications I would have struggled with alone due to distance, speed of flight or other factors.

At the pre-count breakfast hosted by area coordinator Gene Bauer and his wife, Susan, I was also happy to meet Dan Tallman, and his wife Erika, of Dan Tallman's Bird Blog; we've been exchanging blog comments for some time now so it was nice to connect in person. We probably met at the same event last year, but at the time we didn't have any frame of reference. Birdwatchers seem on the whole to be such congenial people, and I enjoy getting to know more of them.

We were assigned a section of southeastern Northfield and a rural area extending farther south and east as far as the edge of Dennison. Much of our driving route was along roads that bordered our assigned area, so officially in those situations we were supposed to count only birds on one side of the road -- the side toward the interior of our area. Anything on the other side of the road was reserved for the person(s) assigned to the adjoining section to record.

There was just one time when we saw something interesting that was on the wrong side of the road: a flock of 11 wild turkeys on a driveway near the intersection of 110th St. and Hall Ave. So these were unofficial turkeys from our perspective, but being large and relatively stable, they formed a good subject for the only photo I took during the outing.

Wild turkeys, rural Northfield (click on photo for larger view)

Birds we officially recorded today included a northern shrike (a very cool spot, and a life bird for me), two small flocks of snow buntings (another lifer -- we looked hard for them last year but didn't find any, though we did find horned larks, which sometimes flock with snow buntings), a flock of 23 robins (!), several downy woodpeckers, a red-bellied woodpecker, a white-breasted nuthatch, two cardinals, quite a few blue jays, four mourning doves, four ring-necked pheasants, four rock pigeons, one bald eagle seen in town behind Sibley School, 34 crows, and numerous juncos, chickadees, goldfinches and house sparrows.

People who participate in the CBC are sent both the regional results and, eventually, a bound copy of the nation-wide report for the year. It's gratifying to be part of this "citizen science" project that helps track avian population patterns.

Oh, and at the end of the morning after hearing our story, Gene noted our turkeys on the side of the reporting form and said that if the adjoining reporters did not spot that flock, he would count them. So it turns out they might not be unofficial turkeys after all.

1 comment:

Patricia Lichen said...

Oooh, turkeys! Glad to hear they'll be counted one way or another.

I'm taking advantage of a few days off to discover new nature blogs--happy to have found yours.