A walk that was for the birds

Did you get a chance to take part in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count this past weekend? I admit I put it off until Monday afternoon – the last day of the count – and decided to count birds during the first part of an afternoon walk with my partner and our dog.

We startled a flock of 7 American robins in the scrub along the roadside, and counted 4 black-capped chickadees on the other side of the road. Within a few minutes, my partner, Paul, spied a great horned owl sitting in a tree not far off our path. It resembled a big, scruffy cat and we were pleasantly surprised to see it in the middle of the afternoon. While we gawked, the owl watched and patiently swiveled its head, back and forth, between us and a small murder of crows. I’d forgotten my camera and binoculars. So, here’s the best image from my smart phone:

The courtship of the great horned owl usually begins in late January and into February, and I’d been hearing pre-dawn “hoots” the last couple of weeks. We also saw what we thought was another large owl in a tree off in the distance — a mate, perhaps? But we couldn’t include it in our count without a closer look.

So, the final tally: 1 great horned owl, 3 crows, 4 black-capped chickadees and 7 American robins — all within 15 minutes. Next time, I’ll remember the binoculars and a better camera. You can visit this link for more info about the 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count.

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