2018 is the “YEAR OF THE BIRD“. What a great way to start the new year with an initiative to help the world recognize the importance of birds in our world. While all wildlife species play key roles here on earth, to me birds hold a special place. Life would be less interesting, less fascinating, less meaningful without them – at least to me. For more information on Year of the Bird go to: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/year-of-the-bird/
There are over 10,000 bird species in the world. Some have populations in the millions (e.g., European or Common Starling), while others have less than several hundred (Spoonbill Sandpiper). Many people may think “So what if a bird species winks out. There are thousands other species still in existence”. However, each species is unique and special, and deserves our attention for their continued existence.
I conducted my COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) monitoring along the beach at Anchor Point on 4 January 2018. The forecast was for sunny skies. And the skies were sunny when we left home. But as we got to within spitting distance of the beach, the fog had rolled in. This kept temperatures cooler than I would have liked (the sun always warms up the body and the soul), but at least the winds were relatively calm. Anchor Point, and in particular the beach, can be nasty during the winter months, with a fierce wind typical. I’ve also been there when the beach has been covered in 4-inch thick ice. Try walking 1.5 miles one-way in those conditions. Of course, if it is too dangerous out, I don’t go. But I don’t think there has ever been a time when I haven’t done my survey – except for those months when I’m not in the state.
I did find a dead bird – a Common Murre. This bird was a juvenile and looked to be in decent condition (i.e., it was not emaciated). I was happy to find only the one bird, as the hardest part of taking the necessary measurements, etc. in the winter is you need to have your hands free (no gloves, unless rubber/latex gloves) to be able to manipulate the bird, the measuring tools, and the pen to write down the data. And of course I had four pens, of which none of them worked. I ended out using the NOTES app on my phone to dictate my measurements and other findings. I have an iPhone, and at times I think whoever developed the audio recorder didn’t know what they were doing. I think only half of my words came out correct. Sometimes when I dictate I am amazed at what the phone thinks I am saying. Personally, I think I am very clear. Next time I will save what is recorded and post it so you can see what I am talking about. Maybe you too have this same exasperating experience.
Kachemak Bay Birders – January Field Trip – Anchor Point
Believe it or not, I didn’t go on the outing. Guess I am not hard core enough to want to experience 30-40 mile per hour (mph) winds, with gusts up to 60 mph, blowing snow/rain, and icy conditions. It was a mess outside. However, nine braves souls did venture to the beach at Anchor Point to check out the birds. Not many species were observed, which isn’t surprising. Hard to see birds on the water when you have large swells.
Since I missed going out with the bird group, I needed my ‘bird fix’ and decided to go birding on my own once the winds died down and the skies brightened up.
Birding the Homer Spit
On a beautiful sunny day (January 4th), Jack and I ventured out to the Homer Spit to see what great birds awaited. The spit is always a good place to bird in the winter – where you will find the greatest diversity of birds at this time of year (weather permitting, of course).
I did make it out again to the Spit later in the month to once again check out the birds. The surprise find were the 12 Dunlins mixed in with the roosting Rock Sandpipers at the Homer Boat Harbor. There were also a fair number of Long-tailed Ducks in the waters along Land’s End (tip of the spit), but otherwise much quieter than when I was last out on the Spit.
Walking the Beach
I must say I enjoy walking the beaches around Homer. Who doesn’t love the mesmerizing ocean or a meditative walk on the beach? We did get out one day this month (sad, I know), but when you live a 30 minutes from the beach and have to descend a long, icy road in the winter you limit your trips in to town.
More Winter (I am not going to use the word “Wonder”) Land
The weather this month has been variable. Some days are diamonds (sunny skies, ‘warm’ 30s, calm winds) and other days are stones (overcast, strong winds, snow or rain, and biting cold temperatures). Of course there are days in between, as well. Sometimes you can get both – diamonds and stones – on the same day. We even had a day when temperatures at our house were in the single digits – “0” to be exact. And with 12 mph winds, that brought wind chill temperatures down to minus 17 degrees F. Brrrrrrrrrr. Too cold for man or beast – well for me anyway (although the neighbor dog loves it). The next day our high for the day was 29 degrees F. What a switch within 24 hours. I kept checking the thermometer between 5:00 am and 7:30 am and watched it rise from 10 degrees to 22 degrees F. So much warmer than the day before. I can’t wait for winter to end. Just think – only three more months. At least the daylight hours (okay minutes) are increasing!
Oh and we have had a regular visitor or two to our neighborhood. Surprisingly our neighbor dogs did not even see (or smell) the moose. We almost always know when there are moose in the neighborhood because the two dogs love to bark, and bark, and bark, and bark, and bark at the moose.
Kachemak Bay Birders Meeting
I recently gave a presentation at the January meeting of our local bird group – Kachemak Bay Birders (check out our website: http://kachemakbaybirders.org/). It takes a lot of work to put together a Power Point presentation, and I typically spend the week prior to the talk going over my presentation and fretting. I’m so glad that is over.
The presentation I gave was on my organized bird tour in Australia called ‘Queensland Top to Bottom.’ I went on the tour in September 2017. While in Australia I picked up some packets of Australian’s favorite condiment – Vegemite. I brought back some of the small packets of Vegemite for people to try. I actually had five takers. Surprise, Surprise. Definitely an ‘acquired taste’, one I personally do not want to acquire…
I am scheduled to give another presentation at the Kachemak Shorebird Festival (here in Homer), on Friday May 11th, at noon. This presentation will also be on my trip to Australia, but will include photos and recounts from the entire two months spent in country, not just the 22-day Queensland bird tour. I am also scheduled to help lead two festival bird tours to the Anchor Point beach – Saturday (Hot Spot) and Sunday. For more information about our shorebird festival check out: http://kachemakshorebird.org/
The Weather outside was Frightful
On the day we had really strong winds (January 13th), I braved going outside to put food in the bird feeders. In our yard I found three dead Pine Siskins. Two I was able to retrieve (not revive), while the third one was within the fenced enclosure. Poor birds. I always hate to find dead birds although I know that death is inevitable.
I’m not sure what killed the birds. Was it weather or possibly the Sharp-shinned Hawk that has been after a lot of our feeder birds? But winter birds need all the help they can get. So how can we help them? Check out Bird Watcher’s Digest free publication: Helping Backyard Birds In Winter. To get this free publication go to: https://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/helping-backyard-birds-winter.php
The publication offers tips on:
- Top 10 Ways to Help Birds in Bad Weather
- Cozy Winter Housing for Birds
- Top 10 Foods for Winter Bird Feeding
- And much more!
Get your free copy today.
Two and one-half more months of Project FeederWatch. This project, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, asks participants to count all the birds seen at their feeder (highest count at one time for each species) over a consecutive two-day period each week (mid November through mid April), and to report observations. One week this month we actually had ten different species at the feeder (a record): Common Raven ( a first), Gray Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Boreal Chickadee, Black-capped Chickadee, Sharp-shinned Hawk (after the birds), Pine Siskin, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch. One of the two Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches looked extra plump. Was it due to the cold?
The last count for the month we had a large flock, like a swirling cloud, of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches descend upon our feeder. They don’t stay long, but great fun to have them come to feed.
Year of the Bird – Calendar of Events
Cornell Lab of Ornithology is hoping birders and non-birders alike will participate in three events over the next year as part of the Year of the Bird: Great Backyard Bird Count (February 16-19th), World Big Day (May 5th), and World Big Day (October 6th).
For the Great Backyard Bird Count (or GBBC), you can spend the entire day in search of birds or simply 15 minutes. You can bird one day or more days during the count period. Cornell wants a snapshot of what birds you see during a given time period and at a location set by you. Simply record your findings on eBird (http://www.ebird.org). For more information on the GBBC go to: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/
The World Big Day involves identifying all the birds you see (both the name of the species and the number of each species observed) on that day. The goal of a “Big Day” is to see as many birds as you can during the day. A lot of people establish teams and compete against each other. Cornell hopes you will likewise record your findings on eBird.
IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD