Thursday, January 04, 2007

Finishing the holiday season...

...with the Savannah (TN) Christmas Bird Count last Tuesday. It's another small count participant-wise; they're all the same in terms of square mileage. Five parties spread from north of Savannah to Pickwick Dam, I was solo in a large area of the Savannah Bottoms and adjacent uplands. The Bottoms are extensive row crop fields on the non-inundated parts of the Tennessee River floodplain, broken by cypress sloughs, brush piles, thickets, and marshy areas. I'm told the extent and location of fallow fields varies considerably from year-to-year; this year the fields had almost all been planted from edge to edge thanks to the dry spring and summer. There was only one significant fallow area in my territory, but that was enough to yield two LeConte's Sparrows. My best bird was a lingering Common Yellowthroat in a small marsh that also harbored a Marsh Wren: the first Yellowthroat ever recorded on the count. Perhaps my favorite sight of the day, though, was 29 Sandhill Cranes winging majestically down river against a brilliant sunset sky as the day drew to a close. Other happy sights and sounds included two Woodcock calling to each other in deep dusk with the almost full moon rising, and eight Pine Warbers coming in to my screech owl imitation all at once in an isolated pine stand far out in the bottoms well away from their usual upland ridge habitat. My total for the day was 65 species, only two of which were unique to my territory (the yellowthroat plus, surprisingly, my four Winter Wrens); that total was held down by the near complete absence of waterfowl in my area. For the count as a whole the tally was a very impressive 111 species, an all-time record even more notable for the lack of any major rarities. CBC success is really about beating the bushes and finding all the uncommon-but-not-entirely-unexpected birds, not so much stumbling across the occasional extraordinary rarity.


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