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    Share Your Christmas Bird Count Stories, 12/11/2013-1/8/2014

    Can you believe it? The 2013-2014 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season is upon us. Today, Saturday, Dec. 14th, the first of the 2013-2014 CBCs are in progress. And “count week” actually got under way earlier, back on Wednesday, Dec. 11th.

    The CBC is, I would say, the most excellent birding tradition on Earth. There is no greater thrill for me than waking up on the “morning” (well, the middle of the night) of the CBC, and hurriedly and excitedly getting started on the long day of birding and human camaraderie.

    CBC-logo-stackedFor the next 23 days, let’s do something simple and heartfelt. Let’s use this forum for sharing our CBC stories. The ground rules: First, let’s NOT report easily downloaded statistics (“The 39th Podunk Hills CBC enlisted 24 volunteers who tallied 68 species…”). Instead, let’s just share stories from count day or count week: a beautiful bird, a crazy situation, a wonderful insight, anything “human interest,” you get the picture. Please, if you don’t mind, tell us your name, and the name and date of the CBC or CBCs you participated in.

    All perspectives and anecdotes are valid. Don’t be bashful. We’d love to hear from folks on their first-ever CBCs, and we’d love to hear from folks who have been birding for twice as long as I’ve been alive (I think there still may be one or two of you…).

    I believe that everybody who participates in a CBC has something to share. And that gets at one of the most glorious things about birding: If you spend the better part of the day birding, as you’re wont to do on count day, the chances are quite good that you have a story worth telling. I can’t wait to hear your stories! Bring it on!

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    Ted Floyd

    Ted Floyd

    Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives of the ABA. He is the author of more than 100 magazine and journal articles, and has written four recent books, including an ABA title, the ABA Guide to Birds of Colorado. Floyd is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and state ornithological society meetings, and he has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Mainly, he listens to birds at night.
    Ted Floyd

    Latest posts by Ted Floyd (see all)

    • Craig Richard

      My name is Craig Richard and I captained a boat team on the McClellanville, SC count on Sunday the 15th. As luck would have it, the weather and tides (spring low in the middle of the day in some of the toughest waters on the east coast) conspired to provide a challenging day on the waters off of McClellanville in the Cape Romaine NWR. Like any birding day, we had our ups and our downs some of which weren’t provided by the 1-2′ chop on the ICW and Cape Romain Harbor. Within a half hour on the water we had Nelson’s, Cave Swallow and Sandwich Tern and were riding high to our first landing on one of the barrier islands. After a perhaps over-zealous search for Ipswich we got back to the boat to find it only half in the water (we were only gone about 15 minutes). With three people we were able to drag the bow back into the water (1000# 18′ skiff) and continue our journey (my back is still aching from the about 15 minutes of frantic work). If we had birded only 5 more minutes I believe we would have been stuck for a long time since we were only an hour after high at that point. The only damage was my falling into the 50 degree muddy waters during the maneuvers! I stuck much closer to the boat on our subsequent landings we bounced back from that near miss with Ipswich AND Lapland Longspur at our next spot and the bird of the day, a Snowy owl at our last spot. I was able to gather some team mates by boat who needed the bird for their state lists and we had great looks for several hours at an apparently very healthy bird! Boating and birding on CBCs here in SC (they don’t call it the Lowcountry for nothing) always provides an additional challenge, especially on a falling tide!

    • mantlik

      My name is Frank Mantlik. I have been participating on CBC’s for about 35 years; and had served as organizer/compiler of the Westport, CT count for 20 years. Well, on Dec 14, 2013, I co-captained the Woodmont-West Haven shoreline territory of the New Haven CBC with Steve & Charla Spector. A few days before the count, Steve asked me for a list of my “hoped for” birds. I replied with a wish-list that included Harlequin Duck, a species that is rare but regular in CT (about 1-3 sightings per year). Well, the day dawned with the first flakes of a day-long snowstorm, combined with cold (23F) and windy (NE at 15-20 mph) conditions – difficult birding, to say the least. Our first stop was at Merwin Point, Milford, a rocky coastline along Long Island Sound. After scanning a few minutes, we walked to the point proper, and there swimming close in was a female HARLEQUIN DUCK! Steve and I ran back to the car to get our cameras. We got great shots of this rarity as it swam by, then it perched on a rock not 40 feet away! We emailed and called the birding community of our find. This is not the first time a female Harlequin has been discovered at this same site on this CBC – it happened about 20 years ago. Both that bird and this one hung around for at least several days afterwards.
      View my eBird checklist and photos here:

      http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S15988241

    • Ted Floyd

      My name is Ted Floyd, and I was a participant in the Fountain Creek CBC, El Paso County, Colorado, Monday, 12/16/2013. I’d done another CBC the day before; there’s always something particularly zany about a CBC done the day after another…I dunno, I think the sleep deprivation brings out the best in us or something.

      The Fountain Creek CBC has become a special tradition for me. It’s a bit far (more than 100 miles from home), but I justify the long, dark trip on the grounds that I always have several great Boulder County young birders with me. The count is on a school day, and it’s a fine excuse for truancy! This year, Boulder County birding stalwarts and high schoolers Joel Such and Marcel Such couldn’t make it, but I was honored to be accompanied by Topiltzin Martinez, 10, and Andrew Floyd, 7.

      Our “best” bird was the most amazingly, bizarrely, unbelievably cooperative Virginia Rail I’ve ever seen. The bird wandered aimlessly around in the woods (!), just out of arm’s reach for 20 minutes. The whole time we stood there, we were just laughing at the bird. Occasionally, it would seem to take note of us, scurry away for about 15 feet, then come right back. It caught lots of spiders and worms in the leaf litter.

      What this Virginia Rail reminded me of is the experience of seeing those surreal antpittas at Angel Paz’s finca in Ecuador. Virginia Rails foraging in the forest understory are surprisingly antpitta-like, something I’d never thought of until yesterday.

      We saw many other birds at Fountain Creek, including more rails and some rarities, but that spider-plucking, worm-sucking, leaf-tossing, strutting-through-the-woods Virginia Rail is the one I’ll never, ever forget.

    • Lisa Appelbaum

      This was the 3rd year for our circle and my 2nd time participating (I was sick last year). No unusual gulls on the lake this year. Did see a peregrine below the dam. I think this is a first for our count. Also another group saw a bobwhite, that is definitely a first. My interesting story has to do with the lengths we went to to save our data. We were crossing a foot bridge along the lake and the wind blew our data into the water. By the time my mom found a long branch to try to grab it off the water, the wind had blown it too far from the bridge to reach. It was pretty warm that day so I volunteered to go in the water after it. I had no idea how deep or cold the water was when I went in. Right off the edge of the bank it went up past my waist and was much much colder than the air temp. I gave up the notion of getting the data that way when I realized I might actually have to swim for it. So I got out with my mom’s help (almost pulling her in with me in the process) and stayed there watching our data (and enjoying the warm sun) while my mom went to find a park ranger to help retrieve our data. They came back with some sort of cleaning brush on a long pole. Luckily the wind had blown the data closer to shore and they were able to reach it. Remember to always write in pencil! And don’t let go of your data on a windy day… especially near water.

      • Lisa Appelbaum

        Oh and this is the Pineywoods CBC from Friday, Dec 20th. Our circle includes the city of Livingston, TX and areas south of that including lots of Lake Livingston shoreline. Also Pine Island, but we haven’t gotten anyone willing to go out there with a boat yet. Participation has greatly dropped (even though this was the best year yet for weather). Would love to get some help from people from other areas wanting to do multiple circles. We have one person from Houston who has participated in the past two counts. He’s also our best birder!

    Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
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