2015-2016 Christmas Bird Count +

Last week I participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The CBC is a series of bird counts done throughout “the Americas (as Audubon says)” that helps track trends of bird populations. You can read about the history of the CBC and how to help at Audubon’s CBC page [link].

I volunteered to help the “South Brevard” counting circle, and was put on a team with three others on a 20ft. outboard on the Indian River. Our captain was Fred Griffin. His wife, Suzanne Chesser and local artist Cathy Ferrell  and I spent several hours around the lagoon. Special thanks to Cathy for the use of her photos.

the-boat-by-cathy
Our boat, with me and Suzanne aboard! (Photo © Cathy Ferrell)

We pushed off as the last of the morning sunshine vanished (taking a couple of large flocks of American White Pelicans with it) and the wind and clouds moved in.

suzanne-fred-me-by-cathy-01
Suzanne, Fred, and I during some relative calm. You can see how overcast it was for most of the morning. (Photo © Cathy Ferrell)

Suzanne had the “official” count form and was doing periodic estimates and updates, and I used eBird to record what I saw (and pointed out to the others). At the end of the count our numbers agreed pretty well – good job, Suzanne!

Fred did a great job piloting the boat and, despite some wicked chop at times, none of us had any real discomfort. Of course Both Fred and Suzanne are familiar with boats and I found out the Cathy was captain of her own boat – a larger “Cheoy Lee” sloop – and knows her way on the water as well. It was good to be in such capable hands.

blasting-into-the-wind-by-cathy
Here we are heading into the wind! We took some hard bounces, but Captain Fred kept us alright! (Photo © Cathy Ferrell)

Most of the birds were tucked up under the leeward side of the islands in the lagoon, though we did have a large count of pelicans (both species) and cormorants.

leeward-side-by-cathy-01
Some egrets on the lee side of a spoil island (Photo © Cathy Ferrell)

We finished up in the afternoon, a little before the official “wrap-up” dinner at Marsh Landing Restaurant in Fellsmere.

Here is my eBird list for the CBC trip:
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26609793

I did a quick jaunt over to the Fellsmere Grade Recreation Area and Stick Marsh before the dinner. The Stick Marsh was inundated (due to the excessive rains we’ve had this fall and winter), but I didn’t stay very long.

shrike-fellsmere-grade
Loggerhead Shrike

Here’s are the lists for both the road to the Fellsmere Grade Recreational Area and the Stick Marsh:

Fellsmere Grade (road and Recreational Area):
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26614761

Stick Marsh:
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S26616862

The dinner at Marsh Landing Restaurant was very nice, and it had the added bonus of giving me my first look at a Barn Owl. There is a nest box right outside the restaurant by the banquet room – so one look on tip-toes and there was my Barn Owl! I think 2 are usually there, and they’ve raised chicks, too.

My first birding excursion of the year, and I had a great time all-around. Another thank you to Captain Fred, Suzanne, and Cathy!

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