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Friday, February 13, 2015

Polar Bear's Revenge

Those of you reading this post no doubt have read Gary Becker's posts about his birding and pursuit of legal nude sunbathing in Florida this past month. All designed of course to make us green with envy while we in PA put up with cold, wind, ice and a winter that so far hasn't even had the decency to provide us a decent snowfall.

Well to Gary I say BAH!! PARLOR BIRDING!!

The Polar Bear division of BCDC (me with a small family support staff) has traveled to our vacation home in the midst of the Vermont Green Mountains where I plan to get some REAL winter birding in and coincidentally a Great Backyard Bird Count that is guaranteed not to tire out my mouse-clicking finger on ebird entry. But each entry will be hard earned.

We left Delaware County at 4:45 Wed afternoon in balmy 41 degree weather and arrived at our place 6 3/4 hours later where it was 14 degrees at 1900' but single digits in the valleys that serve as cold air traps below. The snow looks to be 2-3' deep. There was no wind and complete silence when we got out of the car. The clear winter night stars, unpolluted by lights, were absolutely spectacular. Orion was marching across the front of our deck. The Milky Way was directly overhead. I listened for a Barred Owl that often greets us on arrival but no luck.

Thursday 2/12 the temperature stayed in the mid 20s. We had a steady light snow all day with occasional heavier showers of beautiful large snowflakes the kind where you can see the different shapes on your jacket because they don't melt quickly. (BTW-we recently had the 150th anniversary of the birth of "Snowflake" Bentley-look it up: ) The snow added 2-3 more inches. Pretty day but no real birding. The best I could do at the feeder all day was 5 black-capped chickadees and 2 white-breasted nuthatches.  A long lovely walk on Bingo Rd in the National Forest through a spruce-hemlock forest in the steady snow produced only about 30 chickadees & a few White-breasted Nuthatches all clustered near a home with a feeder. But a lovely walk it was nevertheless.  GBBC starts tomorrow.
Bingo Rd Green Mountain Nat'l Forest, Rochester VT
photo by Tim Eberly
Kind of reminds you of the Sanibel beaches doesn't it Gary?

Today, Friday, I awakened to clear skies, a gorgeous sunrise and a temperature of 8 below zero. It's the first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count so I went birding.  I donned my layers and headed out for a brisk walk on a favorite 1.7 mile loop on the mountain roads here in Rochester. Luckily the winds were calm and as long as I didn't stop to actually look for birds it was tolerable. I started at 7:15 am & was back home at 8:20.   Chickadees were calling everywhere - I counted 28 but I'm sure I heard many more. Nuthatches were calling & I tallied 4 white-breasted but surprisingly no Red-breasted Nuthatches. Four Downy Woodpeckers were it until I arrived at the "redpoll house" This is a private residence where the owners live year round & maintain feeders. Redpolls are "always" there in irruption years & today did not disappoint. The yard sported at least 20 but likely many more Common Redpolls. I looked for hoary for as long as I could stand still but with no luck. The yard actually held 2 Tufted Titmouses which although not rare, is a bit unusual here in VT especially at these temperatures and elevation (1650' for the house).  So the morning walk was good for 5 species.  I did go out for a short walk around 3:45 this afternoon when although still sunny and the temperature was +5 degrees the wind gusts very brisk creating quite a wind chill. I added Common Raven & Brown Creeper to the day's list for a grand total of 7 species. Hey, I still have two days to juice the list up a bit. Maybe I'll hit 10 species although the weather forecast isn't great.

When it's cold out and the winds are blowing on the GBBC you do some feeder watching. Of course the feeder only sported 2 species today but provided plenty of opportunity to brush up on my black-capped chickadee ID skills.

Puffed up chickadee surveys the land in below zero temps

see the hockey stick?

Playing in the snow

Species diversity at the feeder

Updates will appear as warranted.


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