Page 27

DESERT EXPOSURE

DECEMBER 2017 • 27

WINGING IT • YVONNE LANELLI

One Grackle, Two Grackle

O

f course, Christmas means holidays, parties, presents, trees and fun. But birders add one more item to their Christmas list: National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, called “CBC.” Does that mean that birders spend all of Dec. 25 out in the fields with binoculars, looking and listening? Not exactly. Before I tell you what Christmas Bird Count’s really like, you’ll want to know two things: why a Bird Count and why during Christmas? “The data collected by observers over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies … to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America … [and] provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years,” according to the Audubon

This flock of great-tailed grackles surprised us since Audubon says they don’t like this altitude. (Photos by Yvonne Lanelli)

website. Lofty goals, but then, wildlife health is critical to human health. So, again from the website, “Audubon shares data with the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and others, providing modeling for strategies to protect birds and their habitat,

and environmental issues with implications for people as well.” Why Christmas? It is an early-winter bird census, conducted during a three-week period every year between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. Thousands of volunteers across the United States, Canada, and many countries in the

Western Hemisphere pick one day during that three-week period and go out to count birds. It’s fun! Last Dec. 28, I became a CBC-er for the first time with my group, Lincoln County Bird Club. As a novice, I was paired with Anita Powell, experienced birder and founder of LCBC. Our “territory” included Ruidoso at the Chamber of Commerce along River Walk, Carrizo Canyon, Ruidoso Downs near the river and Paradise Canyon. Across the county, other LCBC members worked in pairs along their designated paths and territories. Although we were keen to see and record species, the weather didn’t cooperate. It was cold and overcast. Bird identification proved a challenge, even with strong field glasses. Anita also speculated that strong, sustained winds the week before had resulted in many species seeking refuge

outside their usual locations. Nevertheless, we sat patiently inside Anita’s car and waited by water’s edge. Whenever we saw movement, we trained our field glasses and as soon as Anita made a definite ID, I marked it off on our pre-printed species list provided by Audubon. We counted species and the number of birds in each species. It was slow going. I wondered how other members in the rest of the county were faring. Was the weather as bad there as here? In between sightings, Anita filled me in on our Club’s CBC history. “We’ve participated every year since 1995 with the exception of 2015 when weather prevented anyone from getting out,” she said. Since 1995, the year LCBC was founded, the total number of birds counted ranged from a low

GRACKLE

continued on page 28

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Desert Exposure - December 2017  
Desert Exposure - December 2017