On January first I continue my Big January Count by walking with Gus and the dog down to the bog. The sky is bright and the air is starting to warm as we head out through the neighborhood. In the shadows of the large trees the pavement is still a bit slick with ice and we tread carefully.
I look around the silent waters hoping to see something. I hear the honking of a nuthatch and the cawing of a crow. I see some juncos twittering around low in the brush. I make a pishing sound and a little swamp sparrow flies in to see what it is all about. At first it is obstructed by some brush but then flies into a small tree where the sunlight falls softly on its subtle colors.
As we head back from the bog where I count 10 species I see a few White-throated sparrows in the brush pile at the edge of my yard. The White-throat is yet another species to add to my 2012 Big January List.
After dropping the dog off at home Gus and I hop in the car to drive around town so I could count birds. We make a quick stop at the local donut shop, then head off with coffee in hand to some of my favorite birding spots. Our first stop is the local post office on Steven’s Street in Andover where the Shawsheen River runs by. I see some more mallards there as well as my first Canada Geese of the year. Atop the apartment building across the street a lone Herring Gull stands, and then a few Ring-billed gulls fly low over the river.
From there we head over to North Andover where I am hoping to find some ducks, swans and geese in Steven’s Pond or Lake Cochichewick. As we head down the hill towards Steven’s Pond I start to get excited because I can see the birds on the water already. As we draw near I hear the call of a Blue Jay and more cawing of crows. We pull over briefly and I jump out to count: 85 Canada Geese and 7 Mute Swans on the pond, but no other ducks are to be found.
A few of the geese take flight as I start to photograph them. The swans could seem to care less what I do. After counting a few small birds in the trees, we head on down the road to the South end of Lake Cochichewick.
But in the trees across the road I hear the sharp chip notes of some kinds of small bird and finally spot this female cardinal in the woods. The road along here is narrow and cars are rushing by. I jump back in and Gus and I continue our journey along Great Pond Road, past the Brooks School to the North end of Lake Cochichewick.
A small flock of Buffleheads floats nearby and then, to my utter amazement, I spot a Common Loon far across the lake. It is my first sighting of a loon in this lake and I am thrilled, but it is so far across that the photo I took is little more than a silhouette. Still, it’s block head and the unique tilt of its head are quite visible.
We continue our journey around the lake and I have Gus pull into the parking lot at Mad Maggie’s Ice Cream shop. The parking lot is vacant on this day but I pop out to survey the western end of the lake. I find a gull and a few hooded mergansers hiding out on this secluded arm of the lake and then as I check the surrounding wooded edge I notice something that looks like a stump…yet isn’t.
I jump back into the car then, chattering to Gus excitedly about what I have seen. As I sit back down in my seat I look toward the water just in time to see the heron take wing and fly away. Though I am no threat and never even got close to the big bird, it still didn’t like that fact that I saw it, and it saw me. Still, I was thrilled to add this species to my Big January Bird Count!
As we head towards home I spot a flock of pigeons on some utility wires near a Route 495 overpass. Yet another species for my list. I am so far ahead of where I was at this time last year, but then again, we were buried under feet of snow last January and all the lakes and ponds were frozen. Back at home once again I see my last species for the day. Species number 27 is a Hairy Woodpecker who comes to my backyard feeder. Day one has ended. I can only hope day two brings more birds to my yard. And it does, but only one species is added, a Red-bellied Woodpecker.