Saturday was the first time I've ever done a walking BIGBY Christmas Bird Count. Here are my three favorite birds from my Christmas Bird Count along Milwaukee's lakefront:
* My first favorite bird was a big surprise. I'd barely left home, and was walking down the ramp that heads down the lake bluff from the intersection of Prospect and Ogden. At the top of the ramp I heard some crows doing some serious mobbing. I stopped halfway down the ramp and saw the crows gathered in a wooded area along the bluff, not too far from the ramp. Following the direction the crows were all looking, I spotted a magnificent GREAT HORNED OWL maybe 50 feet away from me! Well camoflauged. I would never have seen it if the crows hadn't pointed it out to me. The owl seemed completely unperturbed by the unwelcome attention it was receiving from the crows. Maybe only the second or third time I've seen a Great Horned Owl in broad daylight. Really made my day! Only one block away from home, and MilWALKee BIGBY species #192 for 2010.
* My second CBC favorite bird was pretty cool. Eastern Meadowlark in Lakeshore State Park. Had to look around quite a bit to find it in the small prairie there. I'd seen the bird only once over the past week, but got a quick glimpse on Saturday. Two other people had seen it as well earlier this week. My gut says "Eastern Meadowlark". But I'm reporting the bird as "Meadowlark species" on the CBC because I didn't have long enough looks to completely rule out Western Meadowlark. I have one blurred photo of the bird in flight, in poor lighting (taken by someone else). I've shown it to a number of other folks, and the consensus is that yes, it's definitely a Meadowlark. But none of them could conclude Eastern or Western from the photo.
* And my third favorite CBC bird was the old reliable dependable female Long-tailed Duck in Lakeshore State Park. I've seen it every day the past week or so. Good close-up views! At least two birders have posted great photos of the bird. When I last saw it Saturday, it was in the patch of open water under the footbridge to Lakeshore State Park. It spent most of its time underwater, surfacing to catch its breath and then diving again. I found myself hoping that it was finding sufficient food on its frequent dives...
Very cold day to be out birding, but very satisfying!!