Along the Allegheny River during the CBC
After working in section 3 during our Christmas Bird Count last Saturday, I ran into Tim starting the second part of his section along the Allegheny River. I was excited to join him and I just knew that being down along the river that I would be doubling my species (as I did).
We hiked through the riparian old field with hopes of waterfowl or anything else unusual!! Of course it was unusually quite with no birds!! Then, as we were getting closer to our vehicle we heard a flurry of birds! Hard to decide which way to look first – over there it’s a woodpecker! Quickly we identified it as a male Red-bellied Woodpecker – cool!! We were able to check off; 5 Black-capped Chickadee – 2 Blue Jay – White-breasted Nuthatch – Downy Woodpecker – 2 Hairy Woodpeckers!! Wonderful – there is not just one but a pair of Cardinals! It is about time that the birds started getting good!! Then, we come across another woodpecker! Isn’t that the Red-bellied?? We discuss how we saw it fly away – could it be the same bird?? Nope, female – red only on back side of its head! Another check – 2 Red-bellied Woodpeckers!
It is funny how within a matter of seconds we are finding all these birds together where we were hiking in very suitable habitat for an hour without a single peep. During the winter months, there are many birds that almost seem to follow the chickadees around as if they were the pied piper. Why might you ask? Hard to tell but these birds are working together as a team with each bird filling a different ecological nitch. As the nuthatch is looking under the bark, the chickadee is at the end of the branches and cardinals are feeding on the seeds on the ground – ect… It is easier to work together as a team than when by yourself! This can also be true as humans who have different skills. Next time you’re out birdwatching this winter, just check out the chickadees and I bet there will be other birds flying around with them.
As we changed directions along the Allegheny, we come across many other wonderful birds like the White-throated Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Red-tailed Hawk, and even a Great Blue Heron! But, what I truly enjoyed was exploring this section of the river without 2 feet of snow on the ground. We saw many mussels on the river bottom and could have almost picked up this Bald Eagle bait (I think it’s a sucker) along the rivers edge. It was reinsuring this river system is doing so well after seeing all this out in the field after discussing the Upper Allegheny River Basin at the Nature Conservancy meeting last week.
While avoiding stepping on the numerous Skunk Cabbage plants poking out of the ground, we had a wonderful afternoon. Although the birds didn’t appear as we had anticipated but we saw a wonderful diversity of wildlife along the Allegheny River. I would love to see this area during the summer months.