This was the view from the passenger seat at just after 8 o'clock this morning, as my little Christmas Bird Count group set off to spend the morning slowly driving the back roads southeast of Northfield, as well driving and walking the southeast section of town. We covered 29 miles by car and about half a mile on foot (mostly on the footpaths near Sibley Elementary School) in 3.5 hours. It was a pretty morning, with last night's dusting of snow still fresh on the fields and trees, but it was relatively slow morning for birding. While we had a few exciting moments, things were generally pretty quiet. We spotted or identified by sound approximately:
- 80 European starlings in a single group
- 51 house finches (about 40 in a single flock)
- 50 mallards (flying overhead)
- 26 American crows
- 21 house sparrows
- 17 black-capped chickadees
- 9 mourning doves (7 in a small backyard tree visible from a footpath)
- 7 blue jays
- 7 wild turkeys
- 6 dark-eyed juncos
- 5 American robins
- 4 downy woodpeckers
- 3 American goldfinches
- 3 northern cardinals
- 3 red-tailed hawks
- 2 northern shrikes (one in town, near the ponds off Jefferson Parkway near Prairie St. -- an exciting "spot")
- 1 red-bellied woodpecker
- 1 white-breasted nuthatch
Dan and Erika Tallman were the Northfield-area coordinators this year and hosted the pre-Count breakfast and the post-Count lunch. It's always fun to sit around the table with other bird-minded Northfielders, and some who come from elsewhere to participate because their home regions don't have a count.
We joined in the Christmas Bird Count the previous two years as well, and I blogged about both outings. In 2009 I saw my first horned larks and provided more general background about the Christmas Bird Count, and in 2010 I saw my first northern shrike and wrote about the frustration of unofficial turkeys -- turkeys that were on the wrong side of the road along our area boundary and so could not be officially counted.
The history and research value of the annual Christmas Bird Count (a project of the National Audubon Society and partners) were nicely described in an article that ran in the most recent Northfield News. Read it here.