The Audubon Christmas Bird Count

It was chilly (sixteen degrees) on Friday,
December 16, when I met Lexington neighbor
Barbara Rowe above Ross Road to tag along
with her as she did the Christmas Bird Count on
Kendal property, as she has for several years
now. Over the next couple of hours we walked
over most of Kendal’s land, stopping to identify
by sight or sound as many species as we could,
as well as count every individual. It’s an inexact
counting process, since birds can fly elsewhere
and be counted again, or can be missed; but with
thousands of participants looking all across the
country, and indeed across the world, the count
can be very useful in keeping track of species
numbers and movements.

The Christmas Bird Count is run by the
National Audubon Society, in partnership with
several other organizations. The results are kept
by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, where
they are available to researchers, scientists, and
organizations. Each count area is a circle fifteen
miles in diameter. Lexington’s circle centers on
Big Spring Pond on U.S. Route 60. Years ago I
participated for several years in the count in
West Chester, Pennsylvania, one of over two
thousand locations in the U.S. and Canada and
involving over fifty thousand participants.
Among the interesting sightings here at
Kendal were a Pileated Woodpecker, a Red-
Tailed Hawk, and a Great Blue Heron. In all, we
recorded 27 species and 133 individuals. The
most individuals in a single species were Black
Vultures; also common in numbers were White-
Throated Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, American
Goldfinches, Black-Capped Chickadees,
and American Crows. Since many people think
Bluebirds fly south for the winter, I want you to
know we saw two at Kendal, and a total of 110
were spotted for Lexington’s count.

In the Lexington count, 74 species and 5,598
individual birds were counted by a little over
twenty people. The two most unusual sightings
were a leucistic Fox Sparrow and a Ross’s
Goose. The sparrow lacked the usual pigment
on most of its feathers due to a genetic oddity.
Ross’s Goose is very unusual to see in this area,
only the fourth ever in the county and never
before on the Lexington count. It looks a bit like
a miniature Snow Goose. I will have a picture of
each of these birds in the Kendal alcove, along with a
little more specific information for anyone interested
in more detail on the count.

Further information on the count can be found in the News-Gazette
article of January 11.  Thanks so much to
Barbara Rowe and to Dr. Dick Rowe, biology
professor at VMI and director of the Lexington
bird count, for much of the information included
— Written by Don H. (originally published in the February 2017 Residents’ Newsletter)

[Note: According to Don, birders prefer to capitalize
the names of birds. If interested in this matter,
Google “birders” + “Capitalization” + “Associated
Press Stylebook” or “Chicago Manual of Style.”]