Again this year, Crossroads at Big Creek will participate in the Annual Christmas Bird Count, a part of the Sturgeon Bay Count on December 16. And we invite the public to join in part or all of the day.
We at Crossroads join some 60,000 birders across the Western Hemisphere in this Audubon-sponsored annual citizen science effort. Experienced birders should contact Charlotte Lukes [email@example.com, or by phone 920-823-2478] to sign up for a territory. However, Crossroads invites beginning birders and families to join us for part or all of the day.
Christmas Count is not competitive, but birders are always pleased when they can record a respectable number of species. It is a special thrill to report an unusual sighting. We always hope to see one or more of the “winter birds.” For several years running, these birds of the far north may be totally absent from area and then one winter, they simply swarm onto the peninsula.
Scientists call this phenomenon an “irruption.” Winter birds will from time to time “invade”–presumably due to food shortages in their normal winter range. So maybe we shouldn’t hope for them. When we see the winter birds, it means they have fallen on hard times in their normal range.
Many of our winter birds– from grosbeaks to snowy owls– have interruptive migration patterns.
So does the small northern species called a redpoll. About the size of a goldfinch, this streaky brownish-grey bird may be tinged with pink but its most obvious field mark is a bright red forehead—a red poll.
When I see these little redpolls out in open, windswept fields. I find it hard to believe they can survive at all, but these seed-eating birds of the arctic are equipped to cope with severe windchills.
The flocks of redpolls are not exposed to the wind for long periods of time because of an amazing adaptation.
About halfway down the neck, a redpoll has a little storage pouch for food—an “esophageal diverticulum,” if you want to be technical. The bird crams this pouch with food as quickly as possible. Then it flies off to some sheltered spot where it can shell and consume the seeds.
Actually, a number of seed-eating birds–finches and grosbeaks, pheasants and grouse–have an enlarged crop which they cram with seeds right before the early onset of the winter sunset. Then, during the night, they slowly digest the extra food.
All very interesting….and obviously it works. The little redpolls survive in large number. Will they come into our area this winter? I don’t know (and if they do, it probably will be in water winter.)
But redpolls will be the role models for the Crossroads Christmas Count. Participants will be out in the (possibly cold and windy) fields and forests, counting as many birds as they can find, and then the group will take shelter in the Collins Learning Center and have something to eat.
So at 9:30 AM and at/or 1:00 PM, birding groups will leave the Collins Learning Center to explore The Cove and Big Creek preserves. Participants are welcome to drop out at any time. At noon, folks are invited to bring a bag lunch, and we will watch birds at the Feeding Stations just outside the expansive windows of the Learning Center. [I’m embarrassed to report that two years ago, we saw more birds from inside than we did in the field.] Crossroads will provide warm beverages.
Instead of showing a full-length film in our Friday film series, on Friday the 15 at 2:00, we will screen a number of short clips on birding basics and a review of some of the birds we are likely to see on Saturday and throughout the winter. One need not participate in the Count to attend. The program is free and open to the public.
The same day as the Bird Count but not till 7:00 PM, members of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society will be watching stars, and galaxies and planets. (and actually, if we hear owls during the viewing night, we can count them!) Member of DPAS are eager to help beginners find their way around the night sky. The Viewing Nights are held at the StarGarden and Leif Everson Observatory located at 2200 Utah Street (at the Utah/Cove Road intersection.
Crossroads at Big Creek is a donor-supported learning preserve made up of The Cove, Big Creek and the Ida Bay preserves. The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan Sturgeon , is open 2:00-4:00 daily and during scheduled activities. Trails and restrooms free and open to the public 24/7.
Friday, December 15
2:00 Friday Films: Bird Watching Video Clips Instead of showing a full-length film in our Friday film series, , we will screen a number of short video clips on birding basics and a review of some of the birds we are likely to see on Saturday and throughout the winter. One need not participate in the Bird Count our to attend. The program is free and open to the public.
Saturday, December 15
9:30 and 1:00 Outing-Christmas Bird Count
Beginning birders and families are invited to participate in the 2017 Bird County. Groups will explore The Cove and Big Creek preserves. Participants are welcome to drop out at any time. At noon, folks are invited to bring a bag lunch, and will watch birds at the Feeding Stations just outside the expansive windows of the Learning Center. Crossroads will provide warm beverages. Pre-registration not required. Loaner binoculars available.
7:00 Night Sky Viewing at the Astronomy Campus
Member of Door Peninsula Astronomical Society are eager to help beginners find their way around the night sky and to offer tours of the observatory. Free and open to the public The Viewing Nights are held at the StarGarden and Leif Everson Observatory located at 2200 Utah Street (at the Utah/Cove Road intersection.
Monday, December 18
9:00 Friends of Crossroads Mailing Party Join Crossroads volunteers in preparing the winter newsletters for mailing. No previous experience necessary. Meet in the Lower Level of the Collins Learning Center.