December 27, 2008

Ida County Christmas Bird Count

Today was the Ida County CBC and despite the cold weather and windy conditions we still managed to pick up a few nice species. As the day went on the weather got better and the birding got better as well.

After driving there with a birder named Jerry, we all congregated at the county conservation board office at a place called Moorhead Park. From there we were all assigned our sections of the designated circle in which to bird. We were teamed up with Bob, a birder who has been on the count a good number of times. He helped us to navigate around the area and showed us some nice birding locations. When the planning was done we were headed out to start counting.

The first stop was at a nearby town to look for Eurasian-collared Doves. We checked a grain elevator in town and found a few different birds but no doves. After looking there we went through town birding all the side streets. Jerry spotted one Eurasian-collared Dove on the road. Before long we counted 39 as they flew out of the roosting site that they were at.

Once we were done birding in town we headed up to bird a lady's property which has been visited on previous cbc's. The area was fairy productive with a Barred Owl being the most interesting bird. We also came across Harris's Sparrow and Downy Woodpecker which are pictured below.

After a successful time of birding it was time to go to lunch. When we were done eating it was time to get back out in the field for the afternoon. On the way to an owl roosting location we saw a Merlin which was spotted by Jerry. We parked right below him and amazingly he didn't fly. I got a nice photo of him as he watched us from the wire. This was a nice species and was definitely a highlight of the day.
Our group headed to the owl roosting spot and hiked all over around the area with no owl to be seen. We found owl poop, owl pellets, owl feathers, and fresh owl prey at various locations but no owls were to be seen. Luckily we had a backup location at Moorhead Park which usually has owls.

Since a Northern Saw-whet owl was located at Moorhead Park we drove back a little early to see if we could find it. We were guided by another birder to where the owl was and we found him with no trouble. The little owl was tucked into a pine tree not far from the road. He was hard to get a picture of but I did manage to get a couple good ones before we left. I heard a saw-whet owl in South Dakota once but haven't seen one before so this made it my first time to see one. It is amazing how tiny they are and how approachable they are. This is definitely an experience I will remember for some time to come. This is a new state and year bird for me making it even better.Once the owl viewing was over we headed down to where all the birders met in the morning to have dinner. The food and the building was nice and warm which aided in our thawing out. After that Jerry and I drove back home after a fun and successful day of birdwatching.

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