Yesterday Erika and I censused birds for the Red Wing, Minnesota, Christmas Bird Count. Most of my readers know about these 15-mile diameter count areas. They are set up by the National Audubon Society across the United States and the world. Currently 2100 count circles run each year, scheduled from 14 December through 5 January.
Our “target species” was the Tufted Titmouse. The titmouse’s range covers most of the eastern United States and southern-most eastern Canada. In Minnesota, this species is uncommon in the southeast, straying only occasionally north of Minneapolis/St. Paul. We have seen under a half-dozen titmice in Minnesota and I banded one near Northfield. Our quest was successful, as you can see in the first photograph. Three titmice fed at a local bird feeder. I knew they are reported from Red Wing These birds are our first in the Red Wing Christmas Count area.
Other interesting birds included a huge flock of at least 168 Common Mergansers. I think I counted 35 in the following picture of part of this flock. Our section of the Christmas Count includes a small stretch of the Mississippi River. Due to our warm fall, the river lacked ice. As a result, we saw few waterfowl. Perhaps the ducks were more spread out without ice, or maybe the winter ducks remained on ice-free water further north. These hypotheses do not explain the large concentration that we encountered.