Christmas Bird Count 2014

It’s New Year’s Eve and time for the Christmas Bird Count at Mule Springs Farm. It was hard getting outside today, because I’ve been feeling a bit under- the- weather. It’s twenty degrees and sunny. I’m wearing a black face mask to tone down the bitter air’s assault on my nasal passages, and a hat, and layers of clothes beneath my down work coat. And, because I’ve lost some weight I am comfortably wearing long johns under my work pants.

The author dressed for a very cold Christmas Bird Count.
The author dressed for a very cold Christmas Bird Count.

The donkeys are out munching on frozen grass. Chippo lifts and shakes his burnt red head; he snorts steam, and his thick chestnut coat glints rich auburn spikes into the lustrous winter sun.

Chippo, the red donkey.
Chippo, the red donkey.

Brewer’s Blackbirds dominate the Count this year. Across the farm—sprinkled on the pastures, plastered in the trees, sipping from the ponds, and clinging to the bird feeders. The blackbirds make a clicking and snapping sound that’s heard farm-wide. Though the females are rather drab brown, the males are best appreciated on a sunny day like this where their color could be described as an “almost liquid combination of black, midnight blue, and metallic green.” And, their blazing, raptor-wild, yellow eyes distinguish them from other blackbirds.

Brewer's Blackbird photo taken by Hot Flash Photography Flickr.com
Brewer’s Blackbird photo taken by Hot Flash Photography Flickr.com

My favorite poem to read on New Year’s Eve is Thomas Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush.” The past three years it’s been easy to see and feel “The Darkling Thrush” on New Year’s Eve, because the farm has been entangled in ice fog. The poem tells of a murky winter ramble where only “tangled bine-stems” outline the sky. The close of the old year weighs heavily on the gloomy English landscape, and all normal folks are inside around the hearth. Yet a lone walker is about. And later the frail thrush that stands up and sings through the fog to herald in the New Year.

But the activity of this New Year’s Eve is full of bluster. Juncos, blackbirds, White Crowned Sparrows, and House Finch bustle about in an eating frenzy so they may get enough nourishment to last the long, cold night ahead. Blue Western Scrub Jay shoot straight and powerfully across pastures. Nothing is lazy or subdued. Everyone exudes vigor –as though the New Year is already here.

Flying Oriental Pigeons. They are not counted in the Christmas Bird Count, but they had a great day of flying above the farm on New Year's Eve.
Flying Oriental Pigeons. They are not counted in the Christmas Bird Count, but they had a great day of flying above the farm on New Year’s Eve.
Ziggy, on New Year's Eve,  sporting his new leather halter that Bruce made for him as a Christmas gift.
Ziggy, on New Year’s Eve, sporting his new leather halter that Bruce made for him as a Christmas gift.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/brewers_blackbird/lifehistory–source for Brewer’s Blackbird quote.

10 thoughts on “Christmas Bird Count 2014

    1. Loved this post–I feel like I was there with you! Lovely word images and terrific photos…brrrrrrrr! Hope you’re feeling better.
      Hi Mary– Thank you! We’ve had quite a time of it, because we have both been ill, and it has been really hard to drag (me) to feed and take care of all the animals. Thank god- this doesn’t happen but every ten years. And, it has warmed up — suddenly – it was 60 today, and I saw two Western bluebirds, which is crazy we don’t see them until February. They both looked into one of the nest boxes. Sher

  1. Dear Sher,
    You are such an excellent writer. The description of the coloring of the male brewer’s blackbird – “almost liquid combination of black, midnight blue, and metallic green” – is unbeatable, just unbeatable.
    Bruce

    1. Dear Sher,
      You are such an excellent writer. The description of the coloring of the male brewer’s blackbird – “almost liquid combination of black, midnight blue, and metallic green” – is unbeatable, just unbeatable.
      Bruce

      Dear Bruce:
      Alas, the quotations indicate that those words were not my own but taken from another source. I choose that line because it is so magnificent. We have been really down here with both of us sick with the flu, and I forgot to post the source at the end of the end of the essay. The source is the Cornell site for birds–like an encyclopedia for birds.

  2. Enjoyed this new post, Sher. Thanks for sharing you life on the farm. We have greater and lesser goldfinches, varied thrush, towhee, flicker as well as what you see Would love to haveStellar’s jays. Also still have two hummingbirds at the feeder. In cold weather I stay busy bringing it in and out so it doesn’t freeze. It is ok to the low 20s as I think the sugar water freezes at a lower temp. I heard at church yesterday that Roz’s parrot died while in the care of Ted and Rymmel Lovell. That must be hard for her and to also to have been the one caring for the bird. Sort of glad it wasn’t my friend over in Wishram I had helped her connect with for bird sitting. Later, Paula

    1. Enjoyed this new post, Sher. Thanks for sharing you life on the farm. We have greater and lesser goldfinches, varied thrush, towhee, flicker as well as what you see Would love to haveStellar’s jays. Also still have two hummingbirds at the feeder. In cold weather I stay busy bringing it in and out so it doesn’t freeze. It is ok to the low 20s as I think the sugar water freezes at a lower temp. Paula–when we first bought this place we did not have any Stellar’s Jay , no red-winged blackbirds, and few Western bluebirds. I believe the restoration efforts of Bruce are pulling in all sorts of new species. It’s pretty exciting. I will send you a private email on the other matter you mentioned. 😦 Sher

    1. The mules look warm in their furry coats! Hi Karen– Yes, and Chippo looks like a little bear. His coat in particular is lush and luxurious. All about warmth, but hey what is it with this suddenly unseasonably warm weather? The donkeys may get too hot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s