By David Bennett, Volunteer Trip Leader
What a wonderful Valentine’s Day morning! Nine Venture Outdoors
participants joined me on a cold Saturday for a 2 hour Bird Count Walk
on Mount Washington. We were accompanied by a very talented crew of
bird experts/enthusiasts: Eva Simms is an avid bird watcher and is
quite familiar with the birds and trails in Mount Washington; Judith
Koch is the Park Manager at Emerald View Park and an
ecologist/environmental educator; and Joseph Reznik is a talented
We gathered at Café Cravings on Bigham St, where we took care of
creature comforts and then a quick orientation to the basics of
birding. Joseph got the group excited as he explained that we would
be participating in an international event called the Great Backyard
Bird Count. Bird enthusiasts everywhere will be observing birds
over a 4 day period and submitting their counts to a comprehensive
database. We would be practicing citizen-science and contributing
useful data that could help scientists learn more about the effects of
climate change and bird diseases on bird populations.
We proceeded through the central garden of Chatham Village, where
residents had been notified in advance of our mission and many had
re-stocked their birdfeeders in our support. We observed a number of
common feeder birds and then dropped down into Chatham Village’s 26
acres of natural woodlands.
As we rounded around the backside of Chatham Village, when saw 3
different species of woodpeckers. Joseph explained the subtleties of
distinguishing between the Downy and Hairy woodpeckers, and was aided
by our good fortune in finding both. Then some excitement broke out
as we observed the flight of a Pileated Woodpecker, which are large,
strong flying and fascinating birds that are somewhat elusive and
often shy of humans. As we moved along we kept seeing the Pileated
several times, and again as we cut back through the interior of
Chatham Village. The bright red crest of the bird appeared in sharp
contrast to the newly fallen snow, and the flashes of brilliant white
on the underwings created beautiful images as it quickly flew from
tree to tree.
During our hike we followed Joseph’s guidelines that help ensure that
we are not counting the same birds twice. Judith kept to the middle
of the group and carefully tallied each bird siting. One of our
participants, Melissa, brought a camera with a long telephoto lens, so
all of us encouraged her to capture the best possible pictures of the
birds that we saw.
Many of us were surprised to see Robins, however Joseph explained that
Robins often advance and retreat based on changing warming/cooling
trends, and he speculated that the Robins we saw will probably move to
a warmer climate during the coming days.
By the end of the walk, we had seen 20 different species of birds, and
many of us were empowered to participate in future bird counts.
Great Backyard Bird Count http://gbbc.birdcount.org/
Our list: http://ebird.org/ebird/gbbc/
Pileated Woodpecker data: http://gbbc.birdsource.org/