Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2016 Fish Springs Christmas Bird Count

 The first Saturday after Christmas is the traditional day for the Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count. I've done it a couple times before and really enjoyed it, so when our schedule allowed us to return this year, I did a little happy dance. Then the day before, we drove two hours on gravel roads to get there. It's a beautiful drive, but pretty isolated.

Fish Springs has a wonderful bunkhouse, and when we arrived we found the current refuge manager, the past refuge manager, and a very nice couple from Salt Lake City. We settled in and had dinner. Then the kids wondered if they could eat the gingerbread house. They eventually worked up the nerve to ask and were delighted to hear they could.

The next morning we split up and went to different areas of the count circle. Desert Boy ventured out with me along one slough, despite the very cold temperatures.

We could tell where the water was because the frozen vegetation stuck up around it. From a distance we could see a little water and birds on it. The American coots are easy to identify, with their all black bodies and white bills. The duck was a harder--I'm no duck expert. I think it's a wigeon (if not, please let me know!)

I paused a bit to admire the beautiful ice crystals.

Even the coyote tracks had ice crystals!

Birds were frequently taking flight, this is hunting season after all, and they see humans as predators. Below are northern pintails and mallards.

One of the most common birds were green-winged teals. When I got a close enough look, their colors were magnificent. They are a smaller duck, so that makes it easier to distinguish them when they fly.

Mixed in with the coots were pied-billed grebes, a smaller bird that dives frequently.

We all gathered for lunch and then afterwards it was time for the big refuge-wide count. That involved the refuge manager trying to get all the birds up in the air, driving from one spring to the next and honking his horn, while the rest of us sat at designated locations and tried to count and identify.

It's not just a few birds. More like hundreds. In fact, our total was about one thousand. That's very low, but it still seemed like a lot of birds to me.

At the spring where I was hanging out I got to see some Greater Yellowlegs.

I also enjoyed the ducks, first going opposite directions...

...then they figured out where they were going.

My most exciting bird was an American bittern.

The kids were good sports. Birding isn't their favorite activity, but Desert Boy said he liked the great blue heron and many northern harriers we saw. He also brought up our backyard bird list and has been enthusiastically adding species to that. So far we're a little ahead from last year.

But probably what the kids liked best was making new friends at the bunkhouse, playing hide'n seek, and devouring the gingerbread house.
 It was a fun weekend, and I hope to do it again!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

blogger templates