Sunday, November 1, 2009

Scouting the CBC

Way back when, Larry Scofield started a Christmas Bird Count in the Upper Nestucca River drainage of the coast range mountains in northwest Oregon. It must have been in the 70's or 80's. There were not (and are not) many birds in that count circle, compared to the circles with lots of varied habitat and large bodies of water. Mostly, our Upper Nestucca CBC has mountains and trees. But it had, way back when, Spotted Owls. Larry worked for BLM and they needed to inventory those endangered owls. I went on a few of those early counts, but not at night nor in Spotted Owl locale. That CBC was (and is), however, close to where we live. But when Larry left BLM, and when the Spotted Owls disappeared from the Upper Nestucca, as they are fast disappearing from everywhere else, the count was dropped. The last count was held in 1995.

Some years ago (October, 2003, to be exact), I decided it would be fun to start the count up again... because it is just as important to know where birds are not as where they are... and because the edge of the circle is just twelve miles from our farm. So with the help of other local birders, notably Don Albright and Quinton Nice, we reinstated the Upper Nestucca Christmas Bird Count... in January 2004. When birders find a new outlet for their addiction, they organize quickly.

The Upper Nestucca is a challenging count... topography and weather leave us with trees across the roads and snow too deep to drive through some years. Most years, it rains. That's what it does in Oregon in December. Especially in the coast range mountains. But there are no towns, few houses or vehicles, beautiful streams, lovely views, lots of trees, quiet and a few birds. I love it.

Today, November first, Johnny and I scouted our sector of the circle. The count takes place in six weeks. Last winter, we had to cancel the count because most of us couldn't get out of our driveways much less to the count circle. Here on the farm, we had snow three feet deep, trees down across our driveway, and no electricity or water. But today, all the trees that had fallen across roads last winter had been pulled off and sawed up. Roads were clear, skies were sunny, and there were birds! Chestnut-backed chickadees and Varied Thrushes, mainly. But we were not looking for birds today. We were checking out the roads. And they look good so far. If the weather cooperates... Johnny and I will be camping in our sector and getting an early start on birding. Who knows, maybe we'll hear some owls overnight. I can hardly wait!

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