Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Upper Nestucca Christmas Bird Count
The bird count I look forward to all year was yesterday, Monday, Dec. 14. Although for Johnny and me, it really started the day before when we packed up the van and headed for the end of our sector high in the coast range of mountains above our farm. There was snow on the ground but we slept warm and cozy inside the comforters we inherited from my dad. Dad never used sleeping bags but rather made his own bed rolls from comforters with snaps sewn on the sides. With our flannel sheets and light sleeping bags snapped inside his comforters, we were quite comfortable. ...Or we were until I opened the van door at 4 in the morning to listen for owls. (I heard none.)
We ate breakfast before daylight, then hiked down the road a piece, listening and watching for birds. There aren't many in the deep forest of my sector, but every one we come upon is a delightful surprise. Varied Thrushes start their day gleaning at the sides of the road. Red Crossbills seem to spend all their time calling jip jip as they fly from one fir cone-filled treetop to the next. We saw 114 of them yesterday.
Soon Johnny hiked back up to the van and drove home to do morning chores, bless his heart. I continued to hike and count birds for the next six hours. Johnny rejoined me for the afternoon and we road birded for another two hours. During all that time, we saw not a single person or vehicle. Although it was foggy much of the time, there was no wind and I did not feel cold... probably because of the number of layers of clothes I had on plus insulated coveralls.
Today, I confess, my calves are so sore from hiking up and down hills I can hardly navigate our stairs. Although I hike many miles each day here on the farm, they are level miles. There's nothing level in the mountains. But, oh it is peaceful and lovely. As the photos show, my sector is mostly second growth fir, but there are areas of alders with creeks. Although the snow had melted over much of the area I hiked, icy flows remained from our recent cold snap.
Here and there on the U.S. Forest Service land which my sector is in are Genetics Trees, trees that are being preserved to provide cones to grow more great trees. I've pictured the tag on one of these trees, GT 290 (according to the nearby sign). Click on the image to enlarge and read the tag. (Obviously, I do more than count birds on this trek.)
After the count, all the participants gather at the home of a very generous friend who provides an incredible meal. I can't even remember everything she served, all delicious: chicken, ham, potato salad, baked beans, fruit salad, deviled eggs, hot cocoa, chocolate cake... While eating we tell the highlights and/or lowlights of our day, report to the coordinator on what we saw, and just have a great time.
I love this count. A few sore muscles are a small price to pay for a great day in the beautiful coastal mountains of Oregon.