Far Afield

A Northern goshawk and magpie are captured moments before the goshawk took flight. A parliament of magpies pestered the bird in what experts say is typical young male magpie fashion.

The beginning of December 2017. Hard to believe the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count is just days away.

This year’s bird count will be held in Jackson Hole on Saturday, Dec. 16. Volunteers who will be ready to invest all day or parts of that day censusing the birds — and, incidentally, the wildlife — in chosen areas of the traditional Jackson Hole count area (and keep a record) should contact Susan Marsh at 733-5744 or smarsh@wyoming.com, or Susan Patla at 413-1222.

Those folks who may need a partner or a party to go with to challenge some unfamiliar terrain may find help at a kickoff breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on count day at Bubba’s.

You can also get a winter bird identification refresher a few days before the count. Meet at 6 p.m. Dec. 12 at Teton County Library.

Christmas Bird Counts began in 1900 when a group of privileged gentleman in the Northeast determined not to shoot, kill or maim any wildlife and birds they could find on a day to celebrate Christmas, but instead to record them. What a concept.

The local count began rather casually when folks like the Muries and the Craigheads adopted the practice.

The count circle, 15 miles in diameter, includes areas where counters can ski, walk, snowshoe or drive. Feeder counters are also welcome.

There are a few species in relative abundance this year, including Bohemian waxwings. Accipiters are showing up in town, likely seeking a tasty meal of Eurasian collared dove. Reports of an Eastern blue jay continue to filter in. So there will be lots to see.

Anyway, the idea has taken hold across the globe and now there are CBCs from the Arctic to below the equator.

Without 100 years of data from national and international counts numbering in excess of 20,000 and computed by hundreds of thousands of observers, some organization is necessary for each participant, though it’s instructive and enjoyable.

Even should the weather be tedious.

Of course, I know that most folks believe that no birds winter in Jackson Hole. They will continue to believe that no matter how many eagles, ravens, ducks, magpies, chickadees, collared doves and hawks they notice throughout the winter. They’ll believe it even after they read here that an average of around 60 species of birds were seen during our count.

But that’s OK. I don’t believe Garrison Keillor is a molester.

Field notes: Susan Marsh reports a Northern goshawk in her backyard last week, being mobbed by eight magpies. The adult female bird sat stoically while the magpies competed to see how close they could get. According to bird experts, this behavior is typical of groups of young male magpies, which in true corvid tradition hang around together looking for trouble. The one who gets closest to the danger is the dominant one, who presumably leads the pack to the next trouble spot. They looked like they were having fun. When the goshawk had enough, she took off for the nearest spruce tree, but not before allowing her photo to be taken.

The Clark’s nutcracker rescued by Olivia Wendt and taken to Spring Creek Animal Hospital has recovered and been released after a two-week rehab.

Louise Haberfeld spotted 1,000 redhead ducks on Jackson Lake on Nov. 26.

Susan Patla saw seven pine grosbeaks in her backyard in Teton Valley.

Alice Richter spotted swans flying at 40 mph on Nov. 27. The same day, Franz Camenzind spotted an Eastern blue jay on Flat Creek in town.

More species to look for this pre-winter are Clark’s nutcrackers, and waxwings, sometimes in flocks, as seen by Tom Dewell.

Bert Raynes writes weekly about whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature. Contact him at columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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