December 26, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 302

Rare duck shows up in Christmas Bird Count

I was still fiddling with the focus knob on the spotting scope when the duck flipped up and dove for the bottom of the pond.

Submitted photo
BLUE JAYS placed fourth this year in the Bessemer Area Bird Count.

"Uh oh, that's no mallard," I thought, as I struggled to bring the edge between the open water and the snow-covered ice into sharp focus.

Through the binoculars, it appeared the duck out on the Bessemer Area Wastewater Treatment pond might be a mallard, but it was really too far to tell at 10 power.

Mallards are dabblers, not divers, and this duck was still underwater when the scene finally came into sharp focus at 60 power. Suddenly, the duck was at the surface again and I instantly saw a large white cheek patch and a very yellow eye.  "Goldeneye," I blurted.

This was quite a prize because it was the first report of waterfowl during the Bessemer Area Christmas Bird Count. Not surprising, really, because other than some rapids on local streams and rivers, and the little patch of water I was looking at, there is no open water during late December within 7.5 miles of Bessemer, the scope of the range for the Christmas Bird Count.

Earlier Saturday, we had just turned onto East Norrie Park Road when Christy said, "There's a blue jay." And just as I was about to say, "Two blue jays," Christy shouted, "Wow, there's something big. It's an Ee-Ee-Ee-." 

"Bald eagle?"  I suggested, as the majestic bird swooped across the road in front of us and landed in the pointy top of a balsam fir.

We stopped there for several moments, watching the national symbol peer down upon us from above. Christy ended up spying two bald eagles that day and four additional eagles were reported by cooperators later that evening.

We were rewarded again when one the cooperators reported a golden-crowned kinglet mixed in with a big flock of American goldfinches. This, too, was a new report to the Bessemer CBC, although ruby-crowned kinglets have been reported in previous years.

What with American goldfinches being the most abundant bird, and goldeneye and golden-crowned kinglets being the most recent additions to the report, it seems gold was the color for Christmas 2013, as indeed it should be. 

In addition to these species, the following were seen, not on count day, but during the week leading up to count day: Purple finch, sharp-shinned hawk, American robin, American kestrel and belted kingfisher.

One of the most memorable sightings for me was the pileated woodpecker slowly pecking wild grapes from a vine on a box elder tree.

In this season of love and giving, let us celebrate the gift of life, the gift of the Savior, and wonders of His love.

I thank everyone who contributed to the 2013 Christmas Bird Count.

Editor's note: In addition to his wrap-up of Saturday's bird count, Edde will comment on winter birds spotted in the Christmas count on the Daily Globe's Outdoor page on Saturday, Dec. 28.

Here are the species counted in the 2013 Bessemer Area Bird Count conducted by Jerry Edde, from Bessemer:

American goldfinch, 716

Black-capped chickadee, 365

American crow, 81

Blue jay, 76

Mourning dove, 67

Red-breasted nuthatch, 61

European starling, 48

Rock dove, 46

Common raven, 40

White-breasted nuthatch, 36

Hairy woodpecker, 32

Downy woodpecker, 28

American turkey, 27

House sparrow, 15

Pileated woodpecker, 14

Common redpoll, 16

Dark-eyed junco, 9

Bald eagle, 6

Northern cardinal, 5

Northern shrike, 5

Ruffed grouse, 4

Red-bellied woodpecker, 2

Song sparrow, 2

Pine sisken, 1

Golden-crowned kinglet, 1

Common goldeneye, 1