This year I decided to try a new Christmas Bird Count, one much further north that had a chance of producing interesting birds such as Rough-legged Hawks, Lapland Longspurs and Northern Shrikes. The CBC that fit this bill and worked for my schedule was the Northern Lycoming CBC.
We started owling at 5:30am and focused on two roads that held lots of hemlocks. Our first couple stops produced a Great Horned Owl and several Eastern Screech-owls but it wasn’t until it was almost light that we finally managed to get a saw-whet to respond in a nice hemlock stand.
The next birds we picked up were Golden-crowned Kinglet, Dark-eyed Junco and White-breasted Nuthatch. We then drove down to the Lycoming Creek to look for any ducks since there is not much open water in the count circle. We struck out on ducks but walking around state gamelands we picked up lots of American Tree Sparrows, a Field Sparrow, and several Swamp Sparrows and Song Sparrows. A local farm had some loud and obnoxious Guineas as well, which I tried to pad our count with. The rest of my group wouldn’t go along however.
Just before noon we headed up to meet some of the other birders to look for field birds in the north part of the count circle. The afternoon was eventful. We quickly picked up a light morph Rough-legged Hawk and an adult male Northern Harrier. We didn’t so so well with the Horned Larks. The lack of snow allowed them to forage far out in the field and they managed to stay out of sight except for a few times when they flew from one side of the road to the other.
After getting good looks at another light morph Rough-legged Hawk and a couple more harriers, we split off from the other group in a late afternoon attempt to pick up any birds that were missed throughout the day including Northern Mockingbird and Mallard that we found, and several such as shrike, Short-eared Owl and Red-bellied Woodpecker that we couldn’t locate.
We ended up the day along a road overlooking a large field where Short-eared Owls have been reported in previous years but they were a no show.
It turned out to be a great day with about 44 species seen with our two groups combined. I am sure there are a couple other species that will be added as all the lists come in from the other groups.