The Birdies"Hey, Jim, there's a flock of birds over there..."
"Where?" I asked.
"Over there!" Ellie shouted, "I can see them plain as day!"
That was the way the first Bend Kid"s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) started out Saturday morning, December 20th - enthusiastic confusion. I met Kim Long of Bend with her three children, two Cub Scouts and one scout mom to see if it was going to be possible to keep 8 to 11 year olds on track to observe, know, remember and list every bird they spotted that one day. That"s the way the CBC works. As it worked out, Ellie Long kept the tally - and did an excellent job!
The first order of business was to get organized as to where the birds the children sighted actually were. To do that, we used the good old "twelve-o'clock" positioning method. The front of the vehicle is 12-o'clock, the rear 6-o'clock, left side 9-o'clock and right side 3-o'clock. Then it was "above the land or trees, or below the trees." From then on it went like clockwork (pun intended).
We also had to get the ravens and crows identified correctly right from the get-go. Both are residents within the Bend 10-mile CBC Count Circle, and can be confusing to identify correctly. To begin with, crows like to hang around town, while ravens are most often seen in the open country. Crows are the smaller of the two and have a squared-off tail, while ravens are wedge-shaped.
Then came the so-called, "bluejays." If we had spotted a genuine, sure-as-you're-born eastern bluejay on the count it would have caused quite a stir in the world of bird-watchers. Once in a blue moon, the genuine bluejay turns up around here, but that's known as an "accidental" in our area.
We have two jays that most people mistakenly call "bluejays." One is the steller"s jay, which is an old-timer in Bend. It's a very dark blue, with an almost black crest; while the other is the Scrub Jay, which is a bright blue with a light breast; it has no crest, and is a relative new-comer. Once we got those things out of the way, the fun and excitement of seeing birds began to take effect and the vehicle was rockin."
"There's a hawk at 3-o'clock! I see a robin on the top of that juniper at 9-o'clock! Hey, look at that big flock of birds! What are they?" "Is that a crow...? Oh, I bet it's not, I remember now, we're near the landfill, it has to be a raven."
As we parked on the main road into the Knott landfill Robert shouted, "Oh, wow! Is that an eagle in the top of that tree at 11-o'clock?"Turned out to be exactly right, it was a sub-adult American bald eagle with a speckled white head, but the tail hadn't molted in with white feathers of the adult.
As we slowly rolled toward the junction of Billadeau Rd. and Ward Rd., a small falcon went zooming by and Kim, shouted, "Kestrel going over at 12-o'clock!"Everyone looked out of the windshield and watched the little falcon zoom away and land in a tree on the west side of the junction. I suggested we get closer for a picture, and as we pulled up the bird was not the kestrel we thought it was, but the rare and seldom seen merlin, one of only the seven tallied by others taking part in the CBC that day.
(I must thank those motorists for their patience over that gray suburban slowly driving along the roads out in the Arnold District last Saturday. Kim kept saying, "We should have a Christmas Bird Count sign on the back of the car. Sorry for the inconvenience.")
All in all, the children had a good day, and had it been possible, they would have also enjoyed taking part in the potluck compilation held that evening at Tom Crabtree's home.
As it turned out, the Bend CBC tallied 80 species, among them, a record amount of Mallards at 2,972; over 380 Common Ravens; 314 American Robins; 10 Red-tailed Hawks; 11 American Kestrels; 351 European Starlings; 217 Western Bluebirds, but only 69 Mountain Bluebirds, and the list goes on...
Chuck Gates, a Prineville birder, reported the most astounding number of birds seen thus far in this year's Central Oregon CBC: almost a half million American Robins over in the Paulina/Post area!