Bird Walking

green heron

A green heron spotted in Road Town on assignment during previous bird count.

After wanting to participate for ages — and not just cover it as a reporter — this year I finally got it together and joined in the annual Christmas Bird Count. If you’ve never heard of it, the count is a bit like a census, with birdwatchers taking to the field (or sometimes their own backyards) to identify and count the bird species they see.

While the BVI is home to many different birds, the Christmas Bird Count is an international project, with volunteers from around the US, Canada, and parts of Central and South America and the Caribbean, all designating the last weeks of December and first few days of January as the time they will count in their local area.

Although there are places that have had counts all the way back to the year 1900, the history of the event here in the BVI is pretty respectable, with the National Parks Trust recording counts going back to 1988.

Being a novice when it comes to identifying birds, I tagged along with a more experienced birdwatcher in my neighborhood. Together, we spotted a sparrow hawk, a bird of prey that I’m pretty sure I’ve seen hunting from the treetops near my deck. I learned what an ani looks like. We also counted a couple of thrushies, which are more properly known as pearly-eyed thrashers, but which I personally think of as papaya thieves because I can never get to a ripe one before they peck holes in it. Naturally, the birds that were most common on our path were the chickens, which don’t get counted.

Between the sizable puddles from that morning’s rain and the rather small wheels on the stroller I was wheeling the baby in, we decided to cut our walk short, but I still count the morning’s adventure as a success: The little one and I got some fresh air, I learned a bit from my birding buddy about bird calls and behaviors, plus I got to contribute (albeit only a small bit) to a really cool global science project. I had so much fun that I’m already planning my next birding adventure.

A version of this column first appeared in the Jan. 10 edition of the Limin Times.

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