I participated in my first ever Christmas bird count aka CBC. I get a kick out of those initials since they mean complete blood count to me
. Prerequisite is to attend a workshop held at Audubon center by Troy who is with az game and fish and is also a member of az field of ornithology. Since it is my first time, I learned a lot in the process
Workshop was on 12/10th this year held at Audubon center in Phoenix. I learned that there is no exit to central from hwy10. By the time I realized it, I overshot to 19th ave and then had to trace back using local roads
. Troy Corman works for AZ game and fish.....In a section overseeing CBCs. He gave a nice power point talk and I am including a few slides here. They divided the area into circles and try not to overlap the dates of counts for circles....so people have a chance to participate in more than one count. They used to do an area near downtown Phoenix but decided to stop it as they noticed greatly reduced numbers of birds
Troy taught us how to estimate numbers if you see a huge flock of birds. I enjoyed learning about it although I don't get to practice that skill in the preserve. Typical areas that attract massive quantities of birds are agricultural or riparian which are not part of Preserve. Whenever there is a flock of birds, need to pay attention to all the birds as there will be more than one sps and often rare birds are mixed in. Need lot of patience to look at all the birds.....I learned this last year as I used to assume that when I recognized one sparrow in a flock, rest are all the same. Birding with Walter, I now learned to pay attention to all of them....but I still need to work on my patience.
The day of our count is scheduled on 12/30th. We got our instructions before hand. Since there were enough stewards, they decided to add a new area in northwest portion of Preserve to the count. Our instructions included our trails that I glanced briefly and knew that it would involve power lines and cone mountain. Since our circle starts at power line, we can't include any birds we see at TH or parking lot. We start and finish the count at powerlines. Once we are inside the circle, we can report any birds we see from there. Since rain is in the forecast this week, I was watching the forecast closely....was going to cop out if it rained. But luckily no rain until tonight so I showed up. It was windy and sunny with pleasant temps. Windy means fewer birds
Our group only had 2 stewards.....myself and Lisa, an experienced steward. We had 2 visitors from tonto NF. I learned quickly why there were not more stewards in the group.
As a person with camera, my job also included photographing esp birds we could not identify so that they can be reviewed by others. Troy recommended every group to carry at least a camera, binoculars, tripods...etc. We had a young intern that carried a tripod and other two had binoculars. As we were moving on, I realized that the powerlines also exist wayyyy behind cone mountain which is where we had to go from the powerlines in front of the mountains.
...hence the mysterious absence of other stewards. We started around 7.30 and took a lunch break around noon where Brown's mountain trail ended at second set of powerlines. I am pretty sure we all received a healthy dose of radiation......we were entertained by Harris hawks and some bikers.
The stretch of second powerlines is new to me....so I really enjoyed that area which is filled with boulders and lots of washes. I will definitely go back there. The trail where the powerlines meet cone mountain is not recognized by conservancy but is well defined as it is used by bikers a lot.
Once we got to cone mountain, it was around 2pm. We still have over 3 miles to go
I then realized it's been a year since I did a long hike. Actually I haven't been hiking much this season as I got busy with my new business. I decided that before my legs quit, I better take lead and charge forward. I became speedy gonzales......we are not seeing many birds anyway as it is middle of the day....no point in a slow hike. The rest just followed me....must have bought my logic. We ended it at 3.30.....with 21 sps. Underwhelming number for sure. But apparently last year, it rained in the middle of the hike so they actually quit the count at half waypoint. I don't know last year's numbers. I actually don't have a copy of this year's numbers but will update this triplog if I get the list.
Most number seen were phainopeplas. Uncommon birds we saw were crissal thrashers and Brewer's sparrows. Most complained bird was gila woodpecker. We watched 2 red tailed in harmonies flight.....may be courtship.....not sure.
Overall, I really enjoyed the hike. Learned a lot from others. Probably will do it again next year....but should train my legs. They had dinner at Hacienda's. I ended up not going as I had to nurse my legs and started to work on photos. Worked out for the better as I texted photos to Lisa who was with other stewards at dinner.....got answers pretty fast.
Question 1: I thought our preserve is part of cave creek count count circle but I keep getting corrected. Need to talk to someone about it.
Question 2: Is HV not part of trail system....I couldn't find it here to add.
This must be my longest triplog here....editing is hard when the trip log exceeds my screen size.....no spell check either
Final results are in my next triplog.