Tuesday, December 15, 2009

After the Count

Yesterday, the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest held its first official Christmas Bird Count. The forecasters predicted near 70F weather and mostly sunny by the afternoon. Oops. Not even close...even Maxwell Smart would decline saying, "Missed it by that much."

The fog had not diminish at all by 8:30 am as volunteers and staff headed out to count the twelve sections within the 15-mile-diameter circle in Four Holes Swamp. In fact, the fog did not diminish much by noon, which negatively impacted the quality of birding. The day remained overcast with a light drizzle. Everyone reported having a wonderful time outdoors with friends and new acquaintances, but the bird numbers were certainly lower than they would have been had the forecasted weather materialized! All the reports have not been submitted, but the count totals will be posted as soon as all the reports have been received.

Nothing out of the ordinary was reported with regards to birds. However, volunteers in section #11 (east of Harleyville and north of I-26 in The Bend area) experienced excitement of another kind. Here's an excerpt from their report: There was a resident following me for some time before the officer pulled up behind me. The officer told me that they had been getting lots of calls about people with binoculars. Just before letting us go he told me that there had been a burglary that a.m. with a minivan matching ours at the scene!! Yikes! It took a while to get through that and get back to birding, but it sure woke us up.

Today, the rain stopped and the weather warmed, but the skies are darkening as we type. Radar shows more rain on the way! Canoeing is definitely not a problem in the swamp! Maybe we should go out and give the Eastern Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus piscivorus) a "heads up," so that it can get back to the shelter of its winter den.

Images by Mark Musselman

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