On Saturday, some friends and I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a 4-day event that is winding down today. We had great fun and saw lots of birds while hiking around the Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds in San Rafael, CA, a nearby place I’d never visited before! There’s still time to join this and other bird counts. In fact, they’re part of an ongoing effort by the Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology to track, learn about, and assist bird populations. Here is complete information about bird counts and how you can get involved. In the meantime, enjoy our walk with us.
We immediately spotted lots of birds in the nearby trees, such as Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Red-Winged Blackbirds, House Wrens, and these Finches, both male (top) and female.
The large ponds were teeming with bird life, both on water and in the trees. It was amazing what I could see in the trees with binoculars. It was as if a hidden world opened up. There were birds everywhere — white glints of gulls, herons, and egrets. (I admit I’m not sure what kinds. My friends, and their kids, were all much better classifiers than me.) Flocks of Canada Geese flew by and we did our best to count/guess how many there were.
In the water were Avocets, and these graceful Black-Necked Stilts.
Plenty of ducks and geese swam by and called noisily to one another. Ducks we spotted included the poetically named Northern Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Ruddy Duck, and, of course, the lovely emerald-headed Mallard.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Red-winged Blackbird. It took me a moment to register the bright orange-red color on the tops of their wings. These seem in repose, watching a duck.
We found a great stand of trees, hosting lots of bird life. (Quickly moving bird life, that seemed to sense when you were closing in with a camera, before flying away.) We were able to identify Robins and these Western Bluebirds.
I quietly followed this Great Egret for a while. I liked the way he mozeyed down the trail, taking his time (Slow Egret?), before sticking his neck out.
This tree was full of noisy, cheery blackbirds.
You can listen to a group of blackbirds, seemingly signaling spring.
The tally for the Bird Count got entered online. As of mid-day Monday, there had been 46,912 checklists submitted, 553 species observed, and 4,531,433 individual birds counted. In a little over an hour, we contributed 170 birds in 24 species to the list in order to help the Bird Count get a snapshot of bird activity over a busy, migrating weekend in February.
As for me, the activity really whet my appetite to do more bird watching and counting. Who knows? One day I might be able to identify those white birds in the trees.
Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman
You might like these other citizen science projects.