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The Christmas Bird Count

Winter birding essentials.

It was a chilly, rainy, overall dreary Saturday morning in December, and I was up before sunrise. I packed my backpack with field guides, a pair of binoculars, and my notebook. I laced my boots over the thickest pair of socks I own, pulled a hat over my ears, and left the house as many other birders did the same across the country. I was ready to see some birds!

Moreover, I was ready to count some birds.

But let me back-up.

As conservation was becoming the name of the game at the turn of the 20th century, the Audubon Society’s decided to put it into action. Rather than hunting birds, they decided people should count them instead. And the tradition continues today: all across the country, birders, amateur and expert alike, don their binoculars and count birds in an all day event to track the wintering species and changes in bird populations across the globe.

I joined a small group of birders at Oxbow Nature Study Area (one of my favorite natural spots in Reno—if you’ve not been there, check it out!). We had our checklist, our binoculars, and (thankfully) our gloves. As we walked around Oxbow, we spotted birds left and right (and above). By the pond, we spotted an unknown buteo, but lost him once we tried to identify some song sparrows chirping in the willows.

There were some highlights: a tree full of magpies, a belted kingfisher on a telephone wire, and several common goldeneyes in the Truckee. We even spotted a well-camouflaged red-shouldered hawk lurking in a tree. There were so many birds, we tried to record and count them all. And we tried not to count the same Stellar’s jay twice. And to really round out the day, what did we see as we rounded the corner to the parking lot? None other than a small covey of California quail scratching around in the grass. What more could a girl ask for?

It was a chilly morning, and I might not have been able to feel my nose, but I did feel a great sense of accomplishment having participated in a century-old tradition of conservation and ornithology. And I got to see a lot of birds, spend time with new people who share a similar interest, and spend the morning in the natural world. And, in the end, I think that’s what it’s all about.

For more information on the CBC, check out the National Audubon Society’s website, or our own local Lahontan Audubon Society’s website, both available below:

Happy (snowy) trails and quails, dear readers!


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