Christmas Count Hits the Road
By: Pat Coate
Inspired by the Audubon Christmas Count, on a recent trip to the Midwest with my daughter we decided to count the number of species of birds we saw while traveling. In keeping with time-honored traditions, we also decided to keep track of the various license plates we saw (trucks don’t count, Canadian provinces do) to see if the count of license plates or bird species would be higher.
Some of the highlights included:
• Bald Eagle in WNY
• Peregrine Falcon flying right down Michigan Ave in Chicago
• Red-tailed hawks all along the way, including many pairs
• Mallard pulling a Bambi on a frozen Milwaukee River
• 100s (if not 1000s) of Canada Geese in fields in IL
• “UGLE PL8” on a car with the new NY license plates
• Number of deer in Eastern IN
• Number of nests you see when there are no leaves on the trees
• Virtual tie on species vs. license plates
In rough order from highest number to least, below is our species list. We counted birds seen while driving and at any stops we made along the way (same for license plates).
Canada Goose (1000+)
Rock Pigeon (100s)
Seagulls (Herring, Ring-billed, potential others)
Black-capped Chickadees (10s)
White-breasted Nuthatch (1 or 2)
License plates we found:
Other travel notes:
• I thought WNY had lots of deer but IN has us beat by a lot. In WNY we typically see a few deer here and there along the highway but in Indiana there were herds of deer with 15 or more in each.
• Amazing the number of nests along the way from small delicate ones to large stick-filled Great Blue Heron colony nests to leafy squirrel nests.
• It was fun to be in Chicago during the playoffs – such a wide variety of people united in their support of the Bears.
• The glow of my $70 Priceline deal for the Hyatt Regency was dimmed a bit by the $50 parking fee.
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