Five hundred forty six! That's how many birds I counted over last weekend for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Actually I counted many more than that, but the counting rules indicate that you only submit the maximum number of birds of a given species that you see at one time. For example, if you see 20 Canadian Geese in one spot and 30 in another, you only report 30.
Our count started on Friday afternoon when Karyn and I decided to try some off the path areas for counting. I figured that the top birding areas would be covered by others. Apparently, it was off the path for the birds as well. Counting in 4 different locations (Fort Boise Military Reserve, A draw near Horizon Drive, Hull's Grove, and our backyard) we found only 18 unique species.
I had a ski race on Saturday which interfered with any hardcore bird watching, but Karyn reported the species in the backyard and I did talk my friend Doug into stopping and birding for 15 minutes on the way back from the ski race. We didn't see a lot of species, but I did count 14 Hooded Mergansers at the outlet to Cascade Reservoir. The "Hoodie" is one of my favorites. This was a fairly outstanding count for this species located in one place. Another great sight on the drive home was three Bald Eagles, one adult and 2 juveniles, in one location along the Payette River.
On Sunday we skied in the morning before heading out for our count in the afternoon. With low counts so far, we decided to hit some of the more popular birding areas in town. Popular for birders and for the birds. At Kathryn Albertson's park we found a number of new species for the year, including our first warbler - a Yellow-rumped Warbler or "butter butt". Moving across to Ann Morrison Park, we found the hundreds of birds that gather for the people to feed them. We came here to see the Eurasian Widgeon, which had been rumored to be hanging out. We did indeed find it, adding a new bird to my life list.Great Blue Heron
On Monday, we went back to one of our favorite spots, a hike along the Boise River. It was a beautiful morning with great lighting for photos. We found 21 different species in over an hour. Most of the usual favorites with the exception of a Bald Eagle. The highlight was watching a Pied-billed Grebe fishing in the rapids.
As usual, participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count was fun. I hope the data that we submitted with useful to many scientists in evaluating the health and distributions of our various bird populations. At the time of this publication, over 76,000 checklists have been submitted, with 641 unique species counted. Over 8.8 million birds were counted.