A Season of Firsts: Three Christmas Chook Counts to Bear in mind

This winter, we rang within the season by collaborating in our very first Christmas Chook Rely (CBC). Each of us—Gabrielle Saleh and Christine Lin—have labored at Audubon for a couple of years and hail from the Dallas-Fort Price space in Texas. Regardless of being avid chook lovers who usually elevate CBC occasions on Audubon’s social media platforms, we had but to affix one firsthand! And what an expertise it was—we invite you to learn alongside for 3 totally different CBC occasions round Dallas.

Lake Ray Hubbard December 18

Gabrielle: It’s 6:30 am and 30 levels Fahrenheit—and I’m mentally making ready myself to journey an hour to my first CBC: the Lake Ray Hubbard depend, an space simply east of Dallas. I have been birding since I used to be seven years previous, however I’ve by no means been in a position to take part in a CBC. Between household emergencies and vacation plans, the timing by no means aligned. That’s till this 12 months—my first 12 months as a full-time worker at Audubon—after I turned decided to expertise one. 

At the moment, I’m bringing my boyfriend alongside, one other avid birder, and my driver as I hold my eyes peeled on the street for birds. This permits me to identify the primary chook of the day—a meadowlark perched on a barbed wire close to a discipline simply earlier than we attain the group. We have to cowl a number of parks across the lake, so we change pleasantries and direct our eyes and ears to the world round us. However we’re greeted with…silence? With the chilly temperatures, the birds seem shy, to say the least. This leaves us time to get to know one another. We discuss when birds first captured our hearts—some are new to birding whereas others have been birding for many years. We’re interrupted by two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers hammering away at a tree. 

After encountering a couple of extra woodpeckers, we head to our subsequent vacation spot and listen to a flock of Canada Geese flying overhead. The depend organizer talks about how CBCs aren’t nearly including a uncommon chook to the record. They’re additionally about counting all of the widespread birds, right down to the final starling. It makes us admire the Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, and Jap Bluebird we spot flying from tree to tree. I’ve to depart early, which solely spurs my need to attend my subsequent one.

Village Creek Drying Beds December 26

Gabrielle: It’s 8 am, and I’m on the way in which to my second Christmas Chook Rely: the Arlington Village Creek Drying Beds depend, a wastewater therapy facility proper in the course of Dallas and Fort Price. At the moment my boyfriend and I are birding with a pair who’ve been internet hosting this depend for years. They share a guidelines of the birds which have been noticed within the space in the course of the previous couple of weeks, and we’re decided to examine off a majority of these birds in the present day.

The realm supplies prime habitat for quite a lot of waterfowl. However since temperatures have been hovering close to freezing, there’s a skinny sheet of ice protecting a lot of the water and fewer geese than traditional. The geese which might be left are comically waddling throughout the ice to get from one patch of water to a different. After we share a couple of laughs, we begin the duty of counting them. Counting tons of of Northern Shovelers has by no means been my specialty, so I begin with the person birds—two Pied-billed Grebes, 4 Ruddy Geese, and 6 Buffleheads—and steadily work my means as much as counting a couple of flocks of Gadwalls. Fortunately one of many leaders is expert at counting flocks and information precisely 322 American Coots.

A variety of ducks stand on a thin sheet of ice that covers the water, while other ducks swim in the background

We’re hours in, and we flip round to identify a coyote gingerly following us, however this doesn’t deter us from finishing our route. Thus far, we haven’t noticed a chook that’s out of the atypical. That’s till we cross paths with a few birders who inform us that there’s been a younger Sandhill Crane noticed roaming the fields, they usually lead us proper to it. We stare in awe.

We nonetheless have a couple of extra websites to go to earlier than we name it a day. It’s thrilling to drive round in hopes of recognizing a brand new chook at every location. Simply as we’re about to depart our final website, an area golf course, my boyfriend spots a Loggerhead Shrike, and we later discover out that it is the just one recorded via all of the zones. We rejoice by assembly up with everybody who participated in varied zones and sharing tales of our sightings. It appears like a neighborhood realizing that we’re all right here to rejoice and assist birds.

Cedar Hill – January 1

Christine: What higher method to begin off the brand new 12 months than with some morning birding? It’s 8 am, and my mother and I’ve simply pulled up on the car parking zone on the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Heart in Cedar Hill, Texas. Whereas I’m making an attempt arduous to suppress a couple of yawns, the brisk air and pleasure of being outdoors snap me into alert mode.

Like Gabrielle, that is additionally my first time collaborating in a CBC, regardless of being a “budding birder” ever since I began working at Audubon 5 years in the past. My mother, however, can hardly inform a dove from a warbler, however her enthusiasm makes up for all of it the identical. With binoculars in hand, our group—led by Katie Christman—jumps right into a van and embarks on our first journey.

Two people walk and bird while holding binoculars along a trail near trees and grasses, as others bird in the background.

It is a comparatively quiet morning, however between a nature reserve, a frisbee golf course, and a library located by a pond, we discover fairly a couple of feathered associates. American Crows abound, a Northern Cardinal pair poses in a naked tree, American Robins hop round, Black and Turkey Vultures circle overhead, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet peeks out at us. My lack of refined chook ID expertise incorrectly identifies a Blue Jay as a Belted Kingfisher within the distance, however the consultants within the group rapidly make the correction. I additionally depend a Northern Mockingbird, the state chook of Texas, and certainly one of my favourite species to see with their expressive tails.

Gabrielle: It’s 8 am, and clearly, I can’t get sufficient of CBCs. It is a thrill to chook with others all with the widespread purpose of serving to guarantee a future for birds. At the moment, I’m bringing my dad alongside for the trip. He’s been my private chauffeur on birding adventures since I used to be seven, so it’s becoming that he experiences a CBC, too. 


Christman drives us to our first location, a quiet protect in Cedar Hill. There isn’t a lot exercise however this provides us time to hear. We hear a Carolina Wren and a pair of Northern Cardinals. In between sightings, we get to know one another and share what led us to take part on this depend. Our group has skilled birders and inexperienced persons, so our tales range, however all of us convey with us a love for our feathered associates.


We arrive at one other location the place we lastly discover some geese. It’s a small blended flock, so this time, I take the lead on counting Northern Pintails and Ring-necked Geese after selecting up a couple of ideas from my earlier depend—what a beautiful method to finish my first season of CBCs.

A female Northern Cardinal (top) and a male Northern Cardinal (bottom) cling to branches, photographed through binoculars

It’s protected to say that each of us totally loved our first CBCs, from how welcoming they’re to how they join contributors with our love of birds and our ardour for shielding them. Plus, it’s wonderful to know that each one our sightings will assist scientists perceive how birds are faring throughout the hemisphere. Christmas Chook Counts really present that whether or not you’re a newbie or a seasoned birder, you is usually a neighborhood scientist. And now that we have now one season underneath our belt, we’re able to take part in future counts to return.


Enthusiastic about becoming a member of a Christmas Chook Rely this 12 months? Learn the way to become involved right here.

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