Friday, December 20, 2013

Walking During the Christmas Rush

Christmas has been headed at us like a runaway locomotive this year, what with Thanksgiving falling so late in November. Superdawg and I have managed to squeeze our walks in between parties, and shopping, and decorating. That is not really the optimal way to walk, but at least we've kept it going. This morning was a little rough because when we set out at 11 a.m., the temperature was rising into the 70s, some 20 to 30 degrees higher than it has been on most of our late fall hikes. I should have brought some water for Sadie; she struggled a bit, but stayed the course.

Can it have been a week since I last posted here? That doesn't seem possible, but time has just been flying. The only bird we have seen of note in the past few days is an old friend on the pond: the Double-Crested Cormorant. This guy is an Olympic-class diver and a fisher who could compete with the Bass Masters. After the Cormorant has done extensive diving, it is fascinating to watch it perch on a post out in the middle of the pond and spread its wings for several minutes to dry its feathers. It is not the prettiest of birds, but it may be one of the hardest workers -- a blue-collar type.

Of course, Christmas is the festive occasion we eagerly anticipate. But looking forward to walking and outdoor events early in the New Year, we have February 14-17 circled on the calendar. Beginning on Friday, February 14 (St. Valentine's Day) and running through Monday, February 17 will be the 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. This event is for bird-watchers of all ages throughout the entire world. Their reports of numbers of birds per species they observe either at their feeders or on their walks will help scientists distill valuable information about where bird populations are currently. You can watch just 15 minutes a day, or you can count as much of the day as you wish. We did it last year and had a blast. The project is led by some high-quality organizations, including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, along with Bird Studies Canada.

To prepare for the count, I today purchased a new, tall and sleek feeder from Lowe's along with a good supply of black oil sunflower seed. The old glass feeder was becoming hard to clean. I can still use it as a backup. The new one is fire-engine red with a slick plastic surface that I think will be a lot easier to keep clean. The regular birdies at the feeder got miffed when I missed a few days of restocking (alas, even my Cardinals are AWOL), but I hope this will draw them and lots more birds of many varieties. And with our eyes raised to the treetops, we hope to spot, hear, and identify a lot of our feathered friends on our winter walks, too.

                                      © Robert G. Holland  2013

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