On December 17, a team of bird enthusiasts combed Cherokee Marsh and nearby areas with a goal of finding as many species as possible for the annual Christmas Bird Count. Started by the Audubon Society as an alternative to competitive hunts, the count has been taking place yearly since 1900.
The core team consisted of Paul Noeldner, Timothy Baker, Jim Hughes, and myself. Also joining us for portions of the day were Barb Noeldner and three folks — Ellen, Bob and Jerome — who learned about the count from our Facebook page. Joleen Griffin, Steve Lang, Jeanne Mawbey, and Tim Becker shared their bird feeders and sightings with us.
With several inches of new snow and continuing snowfall through the afternoon, many birds seemed to be tucked away out of sight though there was much activity at the feeders.
Our rarest find was a fox sparrow, a rusty colored bird that normally winters in Illinois and points south, found at Jeanne Mawbey’s feeder. At Cherokee Marsh, we had good looks at a young bald eagle and a large flock of tree sparrows, which breed in Canada and Alaska but migrate to Wisconsin and other northern states for the winter.
We saw four types of woodpecker (downy, hairy, red-bellied, and northern flicker) but did not find the red-headed woodpeckers that have wintered at Cherokee in previous years. Our only wild turkey was an end-of-day sighting at the Becker farm. We ended up with 24 species.
Each year, the count proves that if you go looking for them, you can find a surprising number of birds that survive and even thrive in the snow and cold.
A version of this article appeared in the Northside News.