Borrego Springs, CA

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Amazing times 2!

Today, I’m going to talk about the day in reverse.  This afternoon I noticed that two commenters had asked again about how I can possibly count all those birds.  So, I thought I’d try a different way to try to explain how I do it.  It’s kind of like being on that game show…”Minute to Win It!”  Although, sometimes I don’t have a full minute.  :)
IMG_7759I’ll use my present header photo as an example.  Each of those lopsided red circles depicts an instant’s view through my binoculars, and has approximately 25 birds inside it’s borders.  This pic was just a portion of the total flock of birds.  Out in the field, I estimate how many birds are in a binocular view, and then start at one end of the flock and begin counting…25, 50, 75, 100… etc. for each view as I steadily pan the binoculars from right to left, or visa versa. 

Often, birds of a feather flock together like these snow geese.  If I have time, I go over the flock again to pick out species that in this case are not snow geese.  That’s how I came up with 75 white-faced ibis in addition to the snow goose count.  Of course, there are times when the view through the binoculars produce only ten birds/view or 100 birds/view.  Since this is just an educated estimate, I never pick numbers like 13 or 56 birds/view!  I can’t compute those kind of numbers fast enough.  I am not a mathematical savant.

The amazing thing, to me, about this explanation is that I figured out how to put those circles on a picture to include in tonight’s post!  I am also not a computer geek, but I almost feel like a RICK protégé tonight!  I definitely need to practice drawing circles, however.  :)  Anyway, I hope that explanation of the art of counting large numbers of birds is a little clearer for you.

Okay, back to this morning.  Since I did the Christmas Bird Count yesterday, I moved the weekly bird survey to today.  As I pulled into the second to last count area, the Suburban suddenly lurched down into a big hole…first the front wheel and then the back.  Ugh!  My clipboards and scope went flying, and my innards got rearranged in the process.  I’ve managed to miss this hidden, overgrown hole on previous counts, but not today.  As I tried to regain my balance and equipment, what to my wondering eyes should appear…
_MG_7806 _MG_7794
…but a gorgeous sleek merlin over my left rearview mirror!  Ho Ho Ho!  What a Christmas gift!
_MG_7833This smaller falcon just fluffed it’s feathers and continued to pose for me.  I was amazed that it didn’t take flight as I made my bumpy arrival.  I was no more than a dozen feet from it.
_MG_7855This falcon feeds mostly on small birds and other mammals and large insects.  That razor sharp beak is made for ripping and tearing.  After I took about 70 photos, I began to get out of the Suburban to do my transect walk. 
_MG_7853It did fly to another perch a short distance away, but continued to be as interested in me as I was in it until a Northern harrier came zooming through the area.  Then it left to course low over the vegetation; no doubt looking for it’s next meal.  It was a great moment in time…

Thanks for stopping by…. talk to you later,  Judy  


  1. He's gorgeous. And I'm slowly beginning to grasp how you do that bird count. Still don't think it's something I could do and I'm amazed at your ability to do it so quickly.

    Merry Christmas to you.

  2. That bird counting is an art for sure.
    By the time I guessimated the first 25, the others would be in a different county!
    The pictures are lovely. Thanks.
    Happy Trails, Penny, TX

  3. The falcon is just gorgeous. I am hoping someday to see and recognize more birds as we travel. You are an inspiration.

  4. Awesome!

    That will make the bird boy's day when I send him over...

  5. great shots, Judy!..happy counting and happy holidays to you and Emma!!

  6. The first things I noticed were the red circles, and I thought "Wow, I wish I could do that!"

    Merlin looks like a wise magician with piercing eyes. What a gorgeous bird!

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  8. What a Christmas gift indeed!!!Oh how I would love such a gorgeous sighting myself!!
    Merry Christmas!!

  9. We have spent about 5 winters at Falcon Lake State Park in Roma, TX...and never spotted a Falcon....thanks for the pictures!

  10. Nice clarity on the bird & he/she posed perfectly for you. A rare opportunity indeed & for sure you were in the right place with the right equipment at the right time. Good job:))

  11. That little fellow was hanging out in the SW corner of your camp site when we were there. Meg and I saw him sitting on a post over there and wouldn't you know it I had no camera. And with my less than extensive bird knowledge I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "hmmm must be some kind of kestrel or sparrow hawk", and continued our wander.

  12. As the others have said already, terrific pictures especially of the falcon! How about those red circles?? Nice job!!

  13. Handsome bird; nice of him to sit still for you :-)

  14. Awesome pics of the Merlin! You need to copyright those photos and submit them to Birder's World!

    It's been several years since we've seen one, but they are always impressive looking!
    One time we had one briefly sitting in a tree outside the dining room window, staring inside!
    Those eyes just "stare you down", like they think they're eagles!

    May you have less mosquitoes today, so that you can enjoy the avian splendor there!

  15. Great pictures, Judy, you are setting the standard for bird pictures, that's for sure. You and Emma have a great Christmas Morning..Be Safe out there. Sam & Donna....

  16. Oh what wonderful views of that wee falcon! He does seem interested in what you're doing! Thanks for the info on how to count birds. It seems such a daunting project. They move so quickly! Perhaps I'll try practicing on the few remaining Canadian geese around here. Merry Christmas to you and Emma!

  17. Much like an "armchair quarterback" I am an "armchair birdwatcher."

    Every spring for the last three years I have been a fan of the San Jose Falcon cam that has observed a pair of our local peregrine falcons nesting and raising their young.

    Now i have your wonderful photos to look forward to as well.

    What a gift.

  18. Thanks, Judy. I thought that was probably the only way to do a count on that many birds, but didn't know for sure.

    I made some of the pretzel mix today for next weeks game night, but couldn't find the seasoning you mentioned, so I got nacho cheese. It smells pretty good, so hope it tastes alright. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  19. Great photos and explanation of the bird count. I can definitely see now that if I were to volunteer in a refuge, I will have to work in the visitor center. I will never get the right bird count :(

  20. That is so cool that you saw that little guy! Great pictures. Reminds me of the little peregrines I used to see (the mascots) when I was a kid, stationed at the Air Force Academy.

  21. Gosh those eyes are so huge, and almost looks like a thick row of eyelashes above each one. Very intense!

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard