Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Bird Count at Elkhart Environmental Center

Elkhart Environmental Center was a great setting to participate in the 17th Annual Elkhart County Christmas Bird Count. The annual Christmas bird count in conjunction with the Audubon Society is one of the longest running and more significant citizen scientist activities in North America.

We started counting at the feeders at the center. We spotted the normal feeder birds. I've been to classes there and the variety of birds was fun to watch, even if a little distracting. Outside, we saw a pair of red-tailed hawks sitting high on a branch. The trails along the river were a scenic area for spotting birds . . . and opossums.

It looks like a dog might have gotten this. We saw other signs of wildlife, such as deer and human tracks, along the trail. 

Our fearless leaders, Indiana Master Naturalist volunteers, were excellent spotters, educators, and recorders. 

It was interesting to see the kids do kid things . . . sticks seem to be universal toys everywhere! Snow angels were popular, too. 

While we saw many birds along the way, such as houses finch, goldfinch, cardinals, juncos, nuthatches, tufted titmice, robins, downy woodpeckers, gulls, red bellied woodpeckers, a flicker, mallards, and kingfisher. However, one was particularly interesting. It sat in the same spot for quite some time and was difficult to identify from far away. As we watched it more we got out the guide books and started thinking it was looking and acting like something from the parrot family. After about 15 minutes we decided we thought it might be a canary winged parakeet. We used technology to determine the location so we could check other reports to verify the bird.

I had another beautiful day in the neighborhood. I look forward to exploring this area more! One aspect I REALLY liked was making connections with others with similar interests and getting to know others in the area. One couple lives very close to the EEC and this is their "go to" nature spot. They seemed quite knowledgeable about wildlife in the area as they are out on these trails on a regular basis. They knew where to find the bluebirds, mushrooms, and other aspects of the area.