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Anita’s Blog – GBBC Still On

My Saturday count was 126.


There’s still time to count your birds and enter the data for the 2022 Great Backyard Bird Count. The count goes through Monday.


https://ebird.org/news/great-backyard-bird-count-2022


The 26 in my count were Grackles near the parking lot at the Tractor Supply Company – yes, counting birds while you’re out and about count, too.


If your backyard’s the beach – what a great time you’ll have wading in the surf, checking out the dunes for sea beans and plants, and skirting the tide to see what it brings in – all while you count the winged activity, from the scurrying sanderlings chasing the tide to the big brown pelicans as they fish the surf.


A Brown Pelican walked the beach with a big fish in its pouch. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

My backyard isn’t a beach, but a resaca, which has its own interesting rhythm. Early morning, fishing birds, like anhinga and black-crowned night-herons, seem to lurk in the bare branches of tall shrubs waiting for the light to dispel the mysteries of the night.


Two Anhinga wait for daylight to begin fishing. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Below, in the water, an unusual colonnade of cormorants floated with the wind-driven current. Mostly, cormorants dive, swim and emerge – not in unison, but sporadically, up and down, like the keys on a player piano tapping out a tune. It's impossible to get an accurate count on those quickly moving targets. I had time to race indoors for my camera and get a shot so I could identify whether they were the neotropic or double-crested species and to get a count.


A gulp of Cormorants drift in the wind-driven current. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

A gulp of cormorants is the collective noun for a group of them in the water, like in the photo above. There were 22 cormorants; those with their bill showing are neotropic cormorants. The bright orange-yellow is below the eye on those whose bill is visible in the photo. Double-crested cormorants have that same bright color in the gular skin under the eye as well as in front of and above the eye.


Speaking of numbers and groups of birds -- is anyone counting the highwire birds that begin settling at dusk in City centers all around the Valley? That would take a panoramic photograph indeed and probably is not practical from a moving vehicle. But I do wonder if anyone has tried.


Mostly those wire birds are grackles. To say a cackle of grackles would not be amiss, nor if you were to refer to them as a plague or cacophony of grackles.


My husband helps add to our count by making sure I get the birds around his shop. We thought one of our orioles was back. We were watching flashes of bright color as a small bird hawked for seemingly invisible insects around the canopy of a tree. The more we watched its antics, we began to think it was something different. I snapped a quick photo, using the long lens on the camera. It was a vermillion flycatcher. Smaller than the Altamira Oriole by about four inches in the wingspan, more red than orange and more active at catching insects on the wing.


A Vermillion Flycatcher awaits a flying insect. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

I spent a good part of Saturday wandering the property with binoculars and the heavy camera. Photography isn’t necessary but helpful for identification purposes. Another false sighting of orioles flitting about in a dead, but popular large shrub and frequent bird hangout, turned out to be two house sparrows, not our female hooded oriole, when the photos were downloaded onto the computer


I was just back from errands when my husband caught up with me, wanting to make sure I would see the “bird with the skirt” standing at the edge of the resaca. Lined up with white ibis, snowy egrets, a great egret and a cattle egret.


Great Egret. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Both male and female great egrets grow long lacy plumes on their back; they molt out after fall.


A Snowy Egret eyes the grass, not wanting to miss an insect opportunity. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Little Izzy helped with the count early Sunday morning – it was good to finally see a returning red-winged blackbird, but not necessarily clenched in the jaws of a small cat. I made a quick trip to the garage to grab the fish net, whomped it over the cat, which caused a quick release of its prey. I lifted the net, they both fled; I was able to scoop up the bird without the cat and help it fly through the open door, uninjured, to freedom beyond!


Whether your time is at the beach, in your neighborhood, favorite park, nature preserve or the intimacy of your own yard, the GBBC is an important count in the birding community. No matter the venue, the time spent in nature is never boring.


Let us hear about some of your sightings and experiences during these four GBBC days.

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