Christmas Bird Count 2021

American Pipits, December 17, 2021

Reports from Art Fovargue and Zack Perdue, both in Cohort VII, about their day of birding for the 2021 Christmas Bird Count.

On Friday, December 17, the Rockingham Bird Club held its annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The Club’s count circle, one of nearly 2000 in the United States, has a 7.5 mile radius with its center in Ottobine. The circle, in turn, is broken into six sectors in which different groups concentrated their birding. Art Fovargue, Cohort VII, and his wife (mostly his wife), Kathy, headed up Sector 6 for the usual leader Kathy Byers, Cohort IV, who was traveling this year. Sector 6, the western portion of the circle, includes Briery Branch (& reservoir), Union Springs, and much of the county between Ottobine and Rawley Springs.

One of the most notable differences from past CBC’s was the mild temperatures, allowing one not to have to dive into their vehicle every few minutes for more hot chocolate. We spent about 6 hours driving and stopping along the many roads in the sector. In the end we tallied 35 species, but rather than about numbers, a lot of the enjoyment is discovering the unexpected.  Like the 24 American Pipits, which are normally sighted foraging in farmers’ fields, we found high in a tree along Fulton School Rd. Also, the 60 plus Turkey Vultures, normally seen soaring in the sky or roosting on tree branches, we discovered scattered across a field, almost as if they were looking for bugs to eat.

After lunch we were joined by Adrie Voors, Cohort II, to hike various trails in the National Forest. Although things had quieted down by then, we did manage to add some new little forest birds to the list, and more Carolina Wrens. Although we never actually saw a Carolina Wren, we did hear one at almost every stop.  It was almost as if he/she was in the trunk and every time we pulled over announced tweet-I’m-here, tweet-I’m-here, …!

For more information on the CBC, organized by the National Audubon Society, and the local participation, visit this description from the Harrisonburg Citizen.

Art Fovargue, Cohort VII, December 2021

Photos by Art

immature Red-shouldered Hawk along Waggys Creek Rd, December 17, 2021

Zack surveyed an area also coordinated by the Rockingham Bird Club:

December 17 was unseasonably warm, but this seemed to have little effect on the number of birds seen. I went out with Bob Eggleston, a retired local ophthalmologist, who has been doing the bird counts continuously in this area since 1968: this was my first. We covered a wedge of a circle whose center is near Paul State forest and extends into northwest Augusta and southwestern Rockingham County. 

We started a little after eight in Bridgewater and drove eastward toward Centerville. Bob has an encyclopedic knowledge of byways and the best locations to spot various birds. There was a surprisingly high number of white-crowned sparrows (22), making these the most numerous sparrow species after the predictably ubiquitous house sparrows (32). We saw a total of forty rock doves, divided between two crowded agricultural buildings. We saw three red-tailed hawks, one Cooper’s hawk and seven kestrels. A highlight for me was to spot a bald eagle rebuilding its nest south of Bridgewater. We were disappointed not to see any non-mallard ducks. With patience we did manage to spy a Wilson’s snipe hiding in the grass keeping company with some mallards.

In all, we logged 38 species, the most numerous being the 113 European starlings, with single examples of great blue heron, Cooper’s hawk, bald eagle, the snipe, belted kingfisher, red-headed woodpecker, brown creeper and dark-eyed junco (I think they were all at my feeder, outside the circle).

I found the experience to be fun, relaxing, and edifying. We are fortunate to have such a group of knowledgeable birders as we enjoy locally.

– Zack Perdue, Cohort VII, December 2021

122nd Christmas Bird Count: Map of Active Circles