As I sat through the Ramsey count recap late Saturday afternoon, I was struck by a few things -- how many unusual birds the birding teams were able to find, and how many birds seen frequently at the Celery Farm almost went uncounted.
One lesson for me was that even in winter, there's an incredible amount of bird diversity out there, if you know where, when and how to look.
The birding teams yesterday were like a team of sharp CPAs going through Enron's books -- but only with a day to do it. So they found all sorts of neat stuff -- goldeneyes and scaups and buffleheads and gadwalls and so on -- but a lot of stuff just got overlooked due to a lack of time.
The most glaring example, I think, was the red-winged blackbird -- I think maybe one was counted the entire day by the 40 birders.
Yet I have been seeing them fairly regularly at my feeders. The photo at the top of this post was taken Friday morning.
No rusty blackbirds were seen, though I had one less than two weeks ago in the stream by my backyard. And no Virginia rails were seen, even though you just know they are lurking in the Celery Farm.
On a similar note, no bald eagles were counted even though there is every indication that they are making a strong comeback. One birder on the team I covered thought he saw one, but the sighting wasn't conclusive enough in his eyes to include in the count.
The reason for the no-show birds, of course, is that these annual counts are mere snapshots, and sometimes at the annual family reunion Uncle Gus is in the men's room when the photo is taken. Or maybe he went to the Carolinas for the winter a week earlier.
This is, as group leader John Brotherton reminded me, citizen science.
Fortunately, the science was done by some dedicated peole who spent their entire Saturday mucking through northern Bergen and Passaic counties -- including my team leader Dave, was looking and listening for owls at 3 a.m. in the pouring rain.
If you haven't been on a Chrismas count, it's well worth the effort.