I am out counting birds everywhere on Day 1 of the Great Backyard Bird Count.
The rising temperatures have freed my yew tree from its snowy bonds. The snow beneath my feeders is starting to melt and you can see the patch I shoveled to try to keep those pesky squirrels from leaping onto the feeders.
Under the front yard feeders I find a song sparrow. A few juncos, white-throated sparrows, chickadees, titmice, house sparrows, a nuthatch and a cardinal are the species I record form my yard today. Then I head out on the town to see what I can see!
At Merry Robin’s House I count 10 species of birds including this male Cardinal and the American Goldfinch above. On the way home to pick up Gus I drive past another industrial area where the Shawsheen River flows close to the parking lot. I can usually find a pair of mallards here as well as pigeons on the building but I see neither species today. I only count 2 birds at this location: 1 blue jay, 1 titmouse.
The day has grown warmer with each passing minute. when Gus gets in the car we drive with the windows down. the car’s thermometer reads 58 degrees! It is starting to feel like spring. We head east towards Steven’s Pond and lake cochichewick. Gus pulls into the soggy parking lot at Steven’s Pond in North Andover and I gingerly step out onto the slushy snow. Brilliant blue skies arch above me, but the trees surrounding the parking lot are mostly silent. A few crows fly into the trees above my head scrutinizing me and trying to decide if I am alarming or not. Then a couple of chickadees and titmice put in an appearance and I add my first woodpecker to the list-a Hairy. I counted 5 species here.
Next we drive to Lake Cochichewick’s south end. I have not been birding here in awhile since the lake is frozen solid, but across the street in the woods I see hope in form of skunk cabbage shoots poking through the melting soil.
We drive around the lake and stop at the north end, but there are too many cars to sit and watch birds at this time of day, so we move on. As we come to the junction of routes 125 and 133 in North Andover we see a business where people are forming a line up to an open window. Could this be an ice cream parlor? I glance at the sign above which reads Mad Maggie's Ice Cream. We do a quick U-turn and park our car. I count birds while devouring Khalua Brownie Fudge ice cream. Yup, it tastes even better than it sounds! Oh, and by the way, a flock of about 75 crows flew over my head while standing in Mad Maggie’s parking lot!
By now it is getting late and though the day is still warm we need to buy some milk, so we stop by our local Market Basket and while Gus goes in the store…you got it! I stay outside and count birds! Here on the grocery store sign the House Sparrows have taken up residence. I watch them for awhile and count a flock of 24 but then I head over to the edge of the parking lot where there is a wooded area.
I scan the sky and forest for birds. Sometimes I hear a faint twittering, but do not see the birds and then…I spot this! a Red-tailed Hawk in the tangle hiding from me and everyone else! I try to reposition myself for a better shot, but though I am quite far away with a fence and deep snow in-between the bird gets uncomfortable and takes off.