December 2012

- By Linda Orkin

A couple of decades ago, I participated in my first Christmas Bird Count. I was a newly fledged Spring Field Ornithology student and feeling so grateful for that mind-expanding, nature-connecting, bird-revealing experience that I just couldn’t wait to do something positive in return.

With a great deal of trepidation and the over-developed sense of my own inadequacies that we all suffer, I contacted Steve Kress, area leader for VI at the time, to offer to volunteer. All of us were invited to gather first for coffee and bagels at the Kress residence and then get assignments. I was paired up with a man I had never met to go out birding and counting. He took me in tow and we set out, just the two of us. I can’t even tell you where we went, just off into the forest. I had to fight some uneasiness at being in a remote location with a strange man. I just kept swallowing that fear. And, I followed him—up steep ridges and down dizzying paths. Try to get in my mind. I had grown up in NYC wary of every unknown man who walked the streets and rode the subways, and I had always had a fear of heights. Yet, I had put myself in a place where I chose to render those worries irrelevant.

The birds, the search, the commitment became a tether that supported me. I remember clearly thinking though, “Wow, if Larry (my husband) had tried to make me climb some of these trails, I would have been fuming at him.” Instead, I did it without complaint or comment, and each climb made me a little braver and prouder. Then, I spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Me. I spotted it and pointed it out to my com- panion, and I was RIGHT. That was the year that the Red- bellied Woodpecker was the headline story. Thank you, climate change. Up till then, they had been quite rare and scarce—perhaps only one or two counted on CBCs, maybe even none. I can’t remember. However, that year we had many. I was warm with pride and accomplishment and new found courage, and I have not been the same since.

I am coordinating the count again this year, along with my co-coordinator, Bob McGuire. In this newsletter you will find more detailed information, including the map of the count circle. My goal each year is to get more and more people involved. I plan to hold two little mini workshops this December for people who may be unsure of the count protocol and need a little confidence booster. Try it; see where it might lead your spirit, and what treasure might be waiting for you right around the next trunk.