fabulous American Robin photo (attribution)
Beware: this robin is larger than it appears.
Numerically speaking, that is.
It's big, it's 113 years old, it's awesome,
and now it's free (used to be all of $5 to participate).
Here's "us," one of the groups in the Yosemite Christmas Bird Count on Sunday.
Can ya guess which one is moi?
As the Audubon Society's page says,
"the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world,
Christmas Bird Count provides critical data on population trends."
It's all day.
I participated in a CBC in San Diego
where I met the guy at my park at about 4:30 a.m.
so we could find the great horned owl he knew was about,
which we did (this dude was prepared).
Then we napped in our cars until dawn.
And resumed birding.
Anyhow, one begins such adventures all psyched.
I didn't sleep well the night before 'cause I was nervous.
Then I figured I'd think of Christmas carols
to lull myself to sleep.
First one I thought of was "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
Which is ALL ABOUT BIRDS!
7 swans a swimming
6 geese a laying
5 golden rings
(ring-necked pheasants, that is)
glorious pheasant photo attribution
4 calling birds
3 french hens
2 turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.
Eventually, though, I slept.
So, got there next morning,
was still nervous ('cause not v. skilled birder)
but our group leader calmed my fears.
She was 100% positive,
super mellow and supportive, so that was great.
Cue fun machine.
Yet, she warned us of birding fatigue.
If you go all day, it's about 7-8 hrs of birding (or more).
You'll run out of steam.
Instead of seeing some birds and thinking "YAY!"
you're bored and want to go home.
IMPOSSIBLE! thought I.
I am Queen of Bio-Enthusiasm.
She was right.
7 hours later, I was thinking:
Do I REALLY have to write down ANOTHER 20 ROBINS?!?
Does ANYBODY CARE at this point?
'Cause your caveman brain knows this is not useful info.
For a caveman.
It IS, however, useful to the CBC compilers.
And to us, later. And prosperity.
So, the American Robin was THAT bird this year.
White-crowned sparrow photo by Wolfgang Wander
Years ago I did CBC w/Bear in the San Joaquin Valley.
That year, white crowned sparrows were "that bird."
I still remember the field I was standing in,
when I asked Bear (quietly, so no one else heard),
"Do I really have to keep counting these white-crowns?"
Bear stared at me.
So, I counted and added another 110 to the list.
And I am a COMPULSIVE counter.
I LOVE to count.
But 7 hours is a long time.
However, this CBC data set is
OLD and HUGE and awesome.
So, it's worth it.
And who knew? I did much better than I expected,
AND I got a really good look at one of these:
red-breasted sap sucker (photo attribution)
And I actually saw a ruby-crowned kinglet
up CLOSE, that had its ruby crown on full display.
I've only seen THAT about 3 times.
killer cute ruby-crowned kinglet (photo by Dan Pancamo)
Saw lots of other good birds,
Lots of birds.
But, what I like best about it,
is 2 things:
1. I'm not the world's worst birder.
A little studying, and I improve.
2. I've reawakened to birds.
Ever since Sunday,
I keep grabbing my binos
to identify things in my yard.
And pulling Sibley's off the shelf,
and looking stuff up.
And listening to the Birdchick podcast.
It's all good.
Even for a caveman.