sponsored locally by Conservation Seeding and Restoration, Inc. As we were driving out the thermometer in the truck was reading -11 degrees F, but when we hit the count circle the temperatures had warmed up to a balmy 7 degrees F and climbed throughout the day finally reaching 17 degrees F at 1500. Snow and ice didn’t limit our mobility too much, but it was a pretty truck-oriented day for the three of us that comprised the count team. The Jim Sage count circle is a fun one: there are almost no paved roads, the single town has no gas station (and is officially called a populated place), you have big views all day (forgot camera), and there are a ton of cool birds.
We set new high counts for the circle for: Mallard (103), Rough-legged Hawk (47), Northern Shrike (3), Black-billed Magpie (68). Horned Lark (152), and House Sparrow (100). The high count for Black-billed Magpies is especially good news because: I enjoy them and some of us were worried as they are susceptible to and appeared to be hit hard by West Nile Virus after it showed up in 2006. In addition to the high counts, we saw a bunch of species for the first time in the seven years we have run this count: Northern Pintail, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Evening Grosbeak, Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, and Common Redpoll – which allowed us to score a count high 37 species and the second highest number of individual birds we have ever counted. The Eurasian Collared-Dove is an introduced species currently expanding its North American Range, it will be interesting to see if it can establish itself in the Jim Sage as it has elsewhere. The Evening Grosbeak appears to be undergoing an irruption year, so finding one here was maybe expected.The Gray-crowned Rosy Finches spend the winter in large flocks on the summits of the Jim Sage, Cotterell, and Albion Mountains – it was just a matter of time until we saw them at the slightly lower elevations we count at. The Common Redpolls were just weird – they appeared to be foraging for sagebrush seed in a sage-greasewood flat, but that is why you go out is to learn new things.
All in all a very successful count that becomes part of the largest conservation data set in the world.