Things have been pretty quiet around this blog lately, not because I haven't been birding, but because I haven't been birding in our neighborhood. From mid-December to early January every year the National Audubon Society and many many birder volunteers organize and participate in Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) all over the country. This long-running (over 100 years!) bird census follows a relatively simple protocol. For 1 day, birders count all the birds of all the species they can find within a 15 mile diameter circle. Usually the organizer of each count divides the circle into sections and assigns a team to each section. Then at the end of the day everyone compiles their lists to see what was found. It's usually a very long day, driving to a meeting place long before dawn and birding until dark. But it can be extremely fun and rewarding. And the data collected provides a valuable window into the statuses and locations of wild bird populations and future conservation priorities.
This holiday season I've been lucky enough to participate in 6 counts. In the Austin area I helped out on the Austin CBC (where I was on the Hornsby Bend team), the Westcave Preserve CBC (where I was on the Lago Vista Team), and the Georgetown-Andice CBC. Down on the coast I helped out on the Port Aransas CBC and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge CBC. One count is left, the Granger CBC on January 2. Some species highlights for me so far are Pyrrhuloxia in Georgetown, Nelson's Sparrows in Port Aransas, White-tailed Kites and Whooping Cranes in Aransas, Common Nighthawk (way out of season) in Austin, Sprague's Pipits in Austin and Aransas, and American Woodcock and Barn Owl in my parents' backyard in Port Aransas.
Here are some photos from all except the Granger CBC and from general birding around the Port Aransas area. Even though it has been lots of fun finding neat birds with great people in all these places, I still can't wait to get back out in the neighborhood soon. Happy holidays!