National Audubon Christmas Bird Counts have been going on for 115 years, but today I participated in my very first one. Our group, Kris Arcuri, Al Marten, me, Becky Hedden and Ed Goldman who jumped in for the birding of Absecon Creek, started at 7 a.m. and birded the "Ed Bristow Route" which consisted of most of Absecon. Wow, I found some great birding spots I never knew existed and I practically live on top of them. I'll never go to Home Depot again without driving behind it, or pass by that medical complex on the Pike without pulling into their parking lot. While Al and Kris did most of the identifying, I helped spot and was the list recorder.
We saw 55 species of birds including Bald Eagles (2), a Harrier, a Peregrine Falcon, a Coopers Hawk, a Red-Tailed Hawk and a Sharp Shinned Hawk. We saw Green Wing Teal (4), which was a new bird for me, as was the Brown Creeper (1) and the Pied-Billed Grebe (2). We saw over 3,000 Brant! It seemed like they were everywhere. We were only stopped by the police once, but we had a sign in the car window identifying us as "Audubon Bird Count," so when he came across it parked in area where we probably shouldn't have been he knew we were o.k., and in his words, "not dumping a body in the marsh." He was really happy about that, thinking of the paperwork it would entail if that's what we were doing there.
We birded until 4 p.m. before the light faded, and we decided we had a long, cold day (35 degrees) and it was time to quit. We met with other birders from other Christmas Bird Count "circles" in our area at a local restaurant to hand in our checklists and compare notes. Together we counted 119 different species of birds in a 15 mile circle. Amazing! Now that I've thawed out and had dinner, I think it's time to make it an early night and fall into bed where I'm sure I'll dream of birds. Lots and lots of birds.