When I was 14-15 years old, I wrote a series of 23 essays as a weekly assignment for my high school English class. I called the series "A Naturalist's Notebook." Naturalist's Notebook Table of Contents
On December 15 and 16, I will be going on two Christmas bird counts. The December 15th one will be the Peekskill area count, with Mr. Hicks, my 7th grade biology teacher. The one on the 16th will be with the Saw Mill River Audubon Society of Pleasantville. This week, I will give a short history and explanation of these counts, and next week I will give the results.
Bird counts are for anyone with an ability to count and a little knowledge of birds. You must be able to fairly quickly identify a flying shape. Exact numbers are not needed, so you must be good at estimating. For instance, last year in the Audubon count, there was a total of 120,000 starlings seen in one day. Of course, not every one was counted!
The Peekskill count with Mr. Hicks is a local count which roughly encompasses Peekskill to Croton. This is a large area, so we have a few groups with leaders. Mr. Hicks is one. Here is what I did for last year's count:
I got up, at 4:00 am, and fixed breakfast, got ready, and went outside in 15°F weather with high winds. At 5:00, Mr. Hicks picked us up, us meaning Dave B., John B., and I. Teddy Hicks was in the car; he's Mr. Hicks's son. We went up the road and called owls. We didn't get any owls this year, but we got 2 or 3 screech owls last year.
By this time, it had started to snow, and we went to Oscawana Island. We saw quite a few ducks there. We then picked up Mrs. Rose Spadaro, a reporter from the Evening Star.
The day wore on, the high points being the sighting of a red-tailed hawk by Indian Point and 20 canvasback ducks at George's Island. Forty-five to 50 mph winds swept the words away as we got out of the car at George's Island! Finally, we ended the day.
The Audubon count encompasses a larger area than the Peekskill count; it includes some of Long Island Sound, part of Connecticut, and the Pleasantville area. Saw Mill audubon covers a section of this area. Our areas are "K and L" of the "Greenwich-Stamford Count." Last year, we had a 14°F average temperature with up to 40 mph winds. There was little snow underfoot, but the high winds and cold temperatures produced a small number of species and a small number of people! Only 6 people, including myself, participated instead of the usual twenty or so. Dr. Bob Schweitzer is the head of this count. I'm hoping for good weather and good birding this weekend!