Annual Christmas bird count is Saturday
BY KELLY BOSTIAN Outdoors
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
12/11/12 at 5:31 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: Bird count an enjoyable diversion
On Saturday, the ducks, bucks and bass will have to wait. I will be bird hunting - with binoculars.
Saturday is the 113th Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, the one full day of the year I devote just to bird watching - although I have to confess the past couple years I've had other commitments.
Most of my hunting buddies don't understand this departure smack in the middle of hunting season. I have a deer stand seat going cold waiting on me; I could find my way to a duck blind or into a boat. But no, Saturday is about the birds and about going birding with a fun group of people.
As in hunting or fishing, the company you keep often makes the experience. I'll be joining Jeff Cox, who leads one of 11 groups assigned to specific areas within the Tulsa Audubon Society's designated count area. We have a good time.
Wherever bird counts take place, the teams tackle the same designated 15-mile radius so results can be compared year-to-year. Tulsa Audubon covers an area of north Tulsa County centered near Sperry at East 116th Street North and North Sheridan Road.
Cox and crew have a route they've been running for years. It includes neighborhoods, houses with bird feeders, pastures, woods, fields, streams, and even a sewage lagoon or three.
The mild winter has birders expecting to see some unusual birds, at least for this time of year. Coordinator Jo Lloyd said pine siskins and red-breasted nuthatches are among those "not rare but not everyday" species.
I'll go way out on a limb and predict fewer waterfowl will be in the count this year. No water, no birds. "There's not much you can do about that," Lloyd said.
I'll also predict that I'll get more people sightings than bird sightings as I'll be pulling double-duty as writer/photographer/birdwatcher. I'm not the greatest birder in the world (after all I only devote one full day to it per year). The Christmas Bird Count works as sort of an annual refresher course on my skills.
The count welcomes novices. If you can wield a pair of binoculars, spot movement in the brush, point and say "Oh! What's that?" you can help spot and count birds.
People who know their way around a clipboard and a pencil always are appreciated as well. This requires the ability to say things like, "one red-tailed hawk - check!" You'll learn some of the birds along the way so you won't have to ask all the time and, perhaps, you'll find a new outdoor pastime you enjoy.
Cox and company will be at it dawn to dusk, but participants can help for an hour or a whole day. It's worth a try. The worst that can happen is you try it for a couple hours and decide to call it quits.
If you want to give it a try, contact Lloyd and she will hook you up with a team, which always includes an experienced birder or two. Send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't think you'll hate it.
I'll pine away for my deer stand, a little, but mostly I'm going to have fun Saturday.
Birdwatching is simply something I have always enjoyed from the time I was a little kid and noticed not all birds were the same. The experience adds to my enjoyment of the woods and waters while I'm involved in other activities. Nothing is diverse as the natural environment, and I've always reasoned that the more I know about my surroundings the more I am able to connect and understand what's going on out there.
It's about woodsmanship, something that can benefit anyone outdoors.
Woodsmanship is knowing your environment without having to look it up in a magazine or field guide, or at least knowing which guide to look to for the answer.
Knowing the sounds of cardinals or Carolina wrens is as important as knowing the difference between oak, elm and maple, toad or frog, snake or viper.
I'm no master, but every bit I learn helps me to be a better woodsman and to be aware of much more than the tracks and trails beneath my feet.