Sunday, December 28, 2008

Foggy and warm, a strange Rockwood Christmas Bird count, 12/27/08

Even as I walked out the door at 5:00 am for owling, my neighborhood streets were shrouded in a deep fog. It was warm - 40 degrees F or so. The warm air met with the cold snow on the ground and the mists swirled around as if being created for a scary movie. Such a stark change from the Ann Arbor CBC a week earlier. Even though I could not really see - I drove right past a couple of my good owling spots - I tried for an hour and a half calling in only two screech owls. To reach my favorite owling spot, I drove along a road that was a solid sheet of ice. The ice didn't concern me as much as the flooded creek and drainage ditches on either side of the road. I thought, "oh no, this isn't good." To make it even worse, the two little screech owls that I usually find here did not make an appearance.

My first daylight stop was in a woods behind a pentacostal church on Huron River Drive in Flat Rock. Stepping out of the car, I could relax (driving along the foggy roads in the dark was not relaxing) and was struck by the beauty of this grey, misty morning. Here I also found some very nice birds: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush and Brown Creepers along with good numbers of the expected decidious woodland species. I always check the tangles for Saw-whet Owl, but none was present for me again this year.

It remained foggy all morning. There were areas where it lifted, but mostly it was impossible to scan the fields for hunting or soaring raptors. This is a count where I always hope to find Rough-legged Hawk, but if one was around this year, it would have been nearly impossible to find. And as with my owling road above, several of my road surfaces were wet ice with fast moving water running through the flooded drainage ditches.

As I wrote about our search for American Kestrel during the Clinton CBC, fortunately there was no shortage of kestrels in my Rockwood territory. I found five and the one below posed for this cropped photo. He was close and not flighty, but he's still difficult to see with the gray sky for his backdrop.

I ended the day with 34 species counted which included some very good birds. A Peregrine Falcon was hunting around a woods near Dixie Highway and Brandon Road. The Hermit Thrush, two Eastern Towhees and single Turkey Vulture turn out not to have been found by any of the other counters. I heard from the count compiler, Tom Carpenter, this morning. So far, with two areas still needing to be reported, the Rockwood CBC tallied 94 species so far.

Next year, however, I will hope for better birding weather.

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