On Saturday Arthur and I participated in our first Christmas Bird Count. We counted in the southwest sector of the West Volusia County circle with six other birders. The weather was perfect for being outdoors, but a string of pleasant weather days kept many birds generally quiet.
We started out at the home of our sector’s leader, where the count cars were outfitted with official signage. Here’s our minivan ready for the day. We counted some feeder birds before heading out.
We listened for birds from the car, driving slowly on some low-traffic roads. At an early stop we spotted an adult Osprey bringing major branches and other material to a dilapidated-looking nest.
Along Cummer Road, a popular birding-by-car spot here in Volusia County, we found 130 Sandhill Cranes.
We also counted 15 Wild Turkeys here, plus a Red-shouldered Hawk, several hunting American Kestrels, our first Eastern Bluebird of the day, and our only Eastern Meadowlarks. Our leader knew about a Bald Eagle nest in the area, and we were able to see one adult already on the nest. While scoping other birds, we heard a Bald Eagle vocalizing. Shortly the the other adult appeared, soaring over the nest.
While we really enjoyed the entire day, one of the best parts was finding out about local birding hotspots that were previously unknown to us. We stopped at many private marinas where special access for the count was granted, but other public spots were visited as well.
One cute discovery was the Hummingbird Garden at the Hontoon Landing Resort & Marina. While we didn’t have any hummingbirds on count day, we learned that hummingbirds frequent the feeders especially during spring migration, so this is a spot we’ll have to hit again in the new year.
At the north end of Lake Beresford, we found a large flock of White Ibis feeding. At this little hotspot we also found our only Blue-gray Gnatcatchers of the day, another Eastern Bluebird, and the only Orange-crowned Warbler of the CBC circle.
Another roadside stop, at a hunter’s access point to Lake Woodruff NWR, we searched for Brown-headed Nuthatches but came up empty. We did pick up our only Eastern Towhees of the day, our only Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, plus a few additional birds.
It was a great day out with some new friends. In all we counted 1243 individual birds of 56 species. The initial tally at the CBC dinner came up with 108 species for the circle. Not a record, but not a bad number, either. And a very good count day for these two newbies.