This year’s Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, Dec. 15. All in all, it was just about an average count with totals of 4,690 individual birds observed and counts of 45 different species. There were no rare or unusual birds observed and no major decline or increase in any species.
There were a few birds of special interest: Mountain chickadees were in good number, 398, and pygmy nuthatches totaled 770. The local count has usually led the nation in the numbers of these two birds seen on any one count. This is not because they are increasing in numbers here but due to the fact that they are obligate ponderosa pine birds and our count is largely in the ponderosa pine forest. This is their home, and we would be negligent if they were not reported in high numbers.
Other birds seen in significant numbers were:
• 17 wild turkeys (not at a feeder)
• 20 red-tailed hawks
• 30 rock pigeons
• 30 hairy woodpeckers
• 11 downy woodpeckers
• 312 Steller’s jays
• 271 black-billed magpies
• 75 Townsend’s solitaires
• 12 American robins
• 59 European starlings
• 11 red crossbills
• 66 pine siskins
• 48 red-winged blackbirds
• 1, 213 American crows
• 82 ravens
• 76 black-capped chickadees
• 501 dark-eyed juncos
• 200 house finches
The day was warm for December, sunny and clear in the mornings with a hazy cloud cover in the afternoon. Snow cover ranged from none in lower, sunny areas to a few inches in shady and north slopes to more in higher elevations. All in all, it was not a bad day for this time of year.
However, there were high winds all day, which made the count lower than usual. Birds do not like wind and usually hide wherever they can find a place out of the wind. It is not just that they don’t like their feathers all blown into a mess, but it is also for their safety.
They know they are less likely to hear a predator when the wind is noisy, so they try their best to hide where they have a better chance to hear a predator.
Saturday, Dec. 21, is the first day of winter, so I expect we will now settle into a month or two of really cold weather.
Christmas is almost here, and I would like to remind you to turn your Christmas tree into a birds’ Christmas tree. If you have a real tree, use it, even if the needles are beginning to fall. Or if you have a small living tree in your yard, you can decorate it where it stands.
Put your tree outside and decorate it with things birds like to eat. Garlands of peanuts, fruit, popcorn, etc., will make it very attractive, and cups made from half orange or grapefruit peels will give it color and hold any variety of small seeds. They need to be strung with a cord hanger, attached to the peel in three equi-distant points around the rim and brought together at the top. They also can be filled with bird pudding, and since people keep asking me for the recipe, here it is:
4 parts cornmeal
1 part flour
2 parts melted suet
2 parts sugar
Cut the suet in small pieces and heat until it is melted. Then measure the liquid fat. Add all the other ingredients. Pack it in plastic containers that will fit the suet feeder. Freeze until needed. Then shuck it out of the container and put it out for your friends.
One word of caution: This is a very rich diet, intended to feed birds in very cold weather. Even though they might enjoy it, do not feed it to your birds all year because it is too rich for them.
When frozen solid, it is too hard for the little birds to eat, so on very cold mornings, I scrape a block of this hard food with the tines of a fork until I have a pile of crumbs, which look like cornmeal. These crumbs can be eaten by the tiny birds, and a squirrel cannot run off with the whole thing.
And with this, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and enjoy the birds.
Christmas Bird Count
Don’t forget about the children’s Christmas Bird Count from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday starting at Kittredge Park. Each child must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, contact Joann Hackos at 303-670-8517 or at email@example.com.