This week’s photo, taken December 28, 2013 at the Thornton Creek Beaver Pond in northeast Seattle, WA, features a female MALLARD. She appears quite calm, perhaps because she knows that no one is going to shoot her, other than with a camera.
The National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 as an alternative to the practice of some sportsmen to gather together on Christmas Day in order to shoot as many birds as possible. Fortunately, the new tradition has replaced the old. Now, each year between December 14 and January 5, tens of thousands of Christmas Bird Count volunteers donate their time on one or more all-day outings to help monitor population trends in birds. Participants “hunt” with binoculars instead of guns, and tally their take with pencils (or smart phones) instead of piles of feathers. Birds everywhere enthusiastically endorse the revised approach.
On a Christmas Bird Count, every bird matters. On our count day on December 28, we begin the morning along the shore of Lake Washington, where we list the 180 AMERICAN COOTS that are floating on the placid lake. The coots seem surprised that bird-watchers are actually looking at them for a change. Nevertheless, they welcome the unexpected attention.
We meet some friendly folk at our event. That’s no surprise, since humans who watch birds tend to be rather pleasant people. During our Christmas Bird Count, thanks in large part to the guidance and trained eyes and ears of our able leader, we record a total of 60 bird species for the day.