Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wooster Christmas Bird Count

Like distant ships at sea, the various parties on Christmas Bird Counts seldom meet. We might come together in port briefly, usually a Bob Evans, McDonald's, or some other purveyor of artery-clogging grease-spackled chunks of meat or fried flour patties. This usually happens in the early am, prior to debarking. Words of encouragement are offered, hope for great things is uttered ("watch for those Pine Grosbeaks!), and off we go on our separate ways.

In fact, you'd be wise to avoid meeting your fellow counters in the field. They might be miffed, regarding you as "poachers" on their turf, if that's where you stray. Like ornithological pirates, CBC birding teams found in foreign waters are often looked on unfavorably and with some distrust. Stay where the compiler puts you, that's my advice. If you are caught invading other turf, plead ignorance. "Oh, I thought I was still in my area" (even if it's five miles away). Or, "I'm just passing through, looking for gas" will usually keep you from walking the plank.

All of those rigorous subdivisions of the typical CBC into distinct and inviolable patches sometimes means that we, the counters, don't always find out what the big picture was after the count is over. Thus, I greatly appreciate the efforts of those compilers that do promptly send all the helpers the results.

Roger Troutman, compiler of the Wooster CBC, does send out the results. I just received Roger's breakdown of the count the other day. It was a good one. Twenty-nine observers tallied 86 species and a total of 15,354 individuals. This was a record-breaker; the most species ever seen in the 57 straight years the Wooster count has been undertaken. There were some great birds, too. Three species had never before been found on this count. A Least Flycatcher was nothing short of incredible. It was well-documented and photographed, too, and does seem to be that species. A winter Empidonax would seem to be more likely one of the western species; a Least is nearly bizarre. Least Flycatcher in Ohio in late October is exceptionally late; this one is off the chart.

A Dickcissel that forgot to head to South America was also found; they do routinely turn up here in winter, though. And three of the pint-sized Cackling Geese were heard, then seen - Jen Sauter's and my contribution to swelling the list. In all, 134 species have been found over the course of the Wooster CBC.

Thanks for sharing the results, Roger, and if you are in the market for an intersting CBC next winter, consider Wooster.

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