Saturday, December 22, 2012

December 22: Grosbeaks to start

Our local Christmas Bird Count--the Thomaston-Rockland Count--is held on the last Saturday before Christmas, so today was the day! My husband and I have been the coordinators of our section of the count circle for something like ten years now, and every year we feel a similar excited anticipation of what we'll turn up this time around.

We knew today was going to go well when we pulled in a little late to the initial meeting spot, and our fellow birders had already spotted a flock of Pine Grosbeaks feeding in a nearby crabapple. Pine Grosbeak is an irruptive species; it prefers the northern boreal forest but occasionally pops down to New England during winters when the fruit and spruce cone crops up north are poor. I'm not sure we've ever even had Pine Grosbeaks in our count section, so it seemed a good omen to see them at the beginning of our long day of counting every bird we find in our section.

We ended the day with a possible section-high total of 51 species, including lots of ducks (for the first time we can remember, all water was ice-free), more grosbeaks, Purple Sandpipers on the breakwater, Razorbills in outer Rockland Harbor, and a flicker (which should have migrated south by now). We even spotted a Gray Seal checking us out as we walked on the breakwater.

Female grosbeaks
appear dull
only from a distance.

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