On Saturday I participated in my first Christmas Bird Count.
The annual census organized by the National Audubon Society is a 113-year-old tradition that sends volunteers into the field to count — well, every single bird they see over the course of a day. Audubon and other organizations use the data, collected this year between Dec. 14, 2012 and Jan. 5, 2013, to monitor bird populations and set strategies for conservation.
I had the good luck of joining up with Tom Gagnon of Florence, who’s been doing this for 40 years and has somewhere around 150 Christmas Bird Counts under his belt. For his first of several CBC outings this year, he was scheduled to survey the birds around the Ashley Reservoir neighborhood in Holyoke. Our effort took us to several spots around the ponds, through the campus of Holyoke Community College, along a rail line and even to the KMart Plaza on Route 5 to check on the neighborhood gulls.
Some highlights included a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a Golden-crowned Kinglet and a few of the many Red-breasted Nuthatches that have been turning up in Western Massachusetts this season. In all, we logged 37 species for the day, including the pair of Peregrine Falcons up on City Hall that I saw when I was leaving my apartment in the morning.
Below, our tally sheet for the day. A second group checked out another area of Holyoke, and I’ll post those numbers when I get them.