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December 29, 2012

Cool birds and cool water, for the Christmas Bird Count


A small number of bald eagles were found along the river, up to about 10, as I recall. Ring-necked pheasants are now scarce on the count, but up to three were visiting a customer’s backyard on Seven Star Road in Groveland the day before, and the day after the count. They could at least be included in the Count Week tally.

Another customer on Merrimac Street in Newburyport e-mailed me a photo of a black-crowned night heron that visited her yard that morning. Great blue herons are often seen on the count, but this is only the ninth time a black-crowned night heron has been reported.

I was able to join the Count in the field in the morning before work. Margo and I have been covering the “new pines” area on the Refuge, across from the North Field. This area is now closed to public access, but 40 years ago we used to be able to park along the road in winter and go into these pines to look for crossbills, saw-whet owls and long-eared owls.

As optimistic as I always am, these pines are not what they used to be decades ago when we would have crossbills feeding at arm’s length. Discovering a roosting saw-whet owl or long-eared owl was always a treat, and it happened frequently back then. But our walks through there in recent years have been little more than long walks. The pines are much older now and not so “new” anymore. But then, neither am I.

Still, in this good finch winter, when we have had hundreds of crossbills at the Salisbury Beach State Reservation, I thought that this would be a special year. But it wasn’t. Unless counting 67 red-breasted nuthatches would be considered special — they were everywhere we looked. We did have 31 flyover crossbills, but those and some chickadees, robins and downy woodpecker were all we could conjure up this year.

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