Christmas Bird Count 2022

Bald Eagle and Common Ravens vying for carcass scraps near Briery Branch, December 17, 2022. Photo credit: Art Fovargue.

On Saturday, December 17 the Rockingham Bird Club (RBC) conducted its annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The CBC was started in 1900 by Frank Chapman as an alternative to hunting birds. It is the longest running citizen science survey in the world. Locally the count has been happening since 1954.

My participation, with my wife (the true birder), was again in what is known as Sector 6 of the count circle. To see the count circle, click here, and zoom into our area. Sector 6 starts just west of Ottobine, Clover Hill and Lilly and extends to Briery Branch, Briery Branch dam, and Union Springs. We started our recording at dawn in the Ottobine Elementary School parking lot. In addition to some songbirds, we saw two Bald Eagles and seven Common Ravens fly over. Shortly thereafter we found their destination when we saw them working on a deer or cattle carcass near Briery Branch. From there we went up past the dam and hiked some of the trails hoping to get some good forest birds. However, it was quite quiet, which we attributed the everything still being enshrouded in ice from the storm two days previous. Although it wasn’t as warm as last year’s CBC when the temperature reached into the 60°Fs, long underwear and hot chocolate kept us going.

By the end of the day, we had logged 33 species and 494 total birds (seen or heard). European Starling was the high count for any species, as it often is, at 120. Sadly, it is part of our landscape. On the other hand, we saw lots of fun birds such as the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker plying a tree I could almost touch, the Yellow-rumped Warbler along Waggy’s Creek, and the near 50 Dark-eyed Juncos along the roads in the higher elevation. (We wondered where they were since they’re not at our feeder!).

Overall, in the count circle, a preliminary review shows that 75 species, and 10,428 total birds were observed. If you are interested in final details, check out upcoming RBC newsletters here.

– Art Fovargue, Cohort VII, December 2022