The Spring Bird Count, this year on May 5, is always a highlight of the season. And, as I always do, I go out a few days ahead of time to scout my area. The scouting is less about finding birds and more about checking areas and assembling an itinerary. Indeed, actually encountering good birds while scouting usually proves frustrating: they are often gone. Tim and I it turns out made two excellent finds. We had a light-colored rough-legged hawk circling over the Chain of Lakes State Park headquarters. No way was that guy hanging around. But even better, and more problematic in some ways, was a flock of 5 marbled godwits and 11 Hudsonian godwits, some of the latter in very nice breeding plumage. They were in a small flooded pond on private property that I always check because it is convenient to do so. I was reluctant to broadcast the info in the fear that they would be flushed and it would annoy the land-owners. Andy Sigler said they would probably be gone in a day, anyway. Whether, he was correct or not I do not know but they were certainly gone four days later.
When my spring count regular Tim Earle told me he would be in Australia instead of Lake County on May 5, I was confronting the possibility of covering my territory alone. But I was joined by semi-regular Jennifer Schmidt, and SBC newbies Al Sander and Patrick Palmer. As always, we gathered in the dark of Deer Lake Marsh waiting for the birds to wake up. Despite lengthy efforts, we never roused a screech owl, first year I have missed it there in a long time. And then it started raining. It must have been the wet and cold that shaped the grim countenances on the faces of my comrades: they looked like a special operations team about to launch a suicide mission. Fortuantely, Deer Lake does offer a structure and we were able to shelter ourselves for the duration of the precipitation.
Worthwhile birds in the morning included black terns, a bunch of lingering ducks (northern shoveller, ring-necked, etc), a pine warbler. Shorebirds were not anything like what they had been on Tuesday: even a dowitcher had flown the coop. At the end of the day, with an hour or so left of light, Al counted up the totals and announced a figure. Patrick then added the list up and reached yet another number. So I gave it a try and came up with something else again. (Exactly why the ineptitude in simple counting is not clear: it may well have been rooted in my bad handwriting and the fact that over the course of the day the same species was written down more than once). By performing the tally as a group, we finally reached the grand total of 99 species. That was clearly unacceptable so, the three of us (Jennifer had left at lunch time) headed out to find a bluebird where I knew there were houses. And sure enough: a nice male brought us into triple figures.