Last week a friend called asking if we were interested in participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count. We didn’t have plans and wanted to go for a hike anyway, so why not count the birds while we do it?! The Christmas Bird Count first began in 1900. Prior to that point, it was actually a tradition to do a bird hunt around this time of year. Bird populations seemed to be on the decline, but no formal census had ever been done. The Christmas Bird Count grew out of this desire to understand bird population trends and it is now a popular citizen science bird census (https://www.audubon.org/conservation/history-christmas-bird-count).
We were assigned an area around AMC’s Highland Center on Route 302 in Crawford Notch, NH. It was the perfect route to do with a 5 year old because the Highland Center offered a place to warm up, grab a hot drink, and use the bathroom.
We first checked in with the front desk to ask about walking conditions for the trail around Ammonoosuc Lake. Unfortunately, the young adults manning the desk weren’t very helpful because they didn’t know what the foot traffic was like there and told us that if we had snowshoes we probably should take them. Andrew and Lindsay decided to check it out first and then if needed, run back to the car to get the snowshoes. The Ammonoosuc Lake trail begins behind the Highland Center in a back corner. The trail head was a little difficult to find because snowbanks obscured the view, but eventually we found it and alas, there was lots of foot traffic and no need for snowshoes.
The woods were quiet and calm, a welcome from the wind we experienced around the Highland Center. We were lucky to spot a red-breasted nuthatch hanging out next to the trail and our count began! We also found some really fun otter slide tracks in the snow. Ammonoosuc Lake was a snow covered beauty and we enjoyed the view as we walked the trail around it. We stopped at the farthest end for a quick snack break and then made our way back toward the Highland Center. We tallied a couple of chickadees and another nuthatch on our way back up the trail.
At the front of the Highland Center we walked through the snow toward the natural playground. We were surprised at how little use this area gets in the winter. The rope bridge on the natural playground is closed in the winter, but we had fun climbing around the rest of the playground. We kept our eyes to the sky and our ears open, but the cold, windy day kept the birds in the woods.
As a final reward for our day, we headed back into the Highland Center and bought hot chocolate and drank it by the fireplace. We didn’t get a lot of birds, but we contributed our list with the list of many others doing the count in the Crawford Notch area. If you want to get involved in the Christmas Bird Count in your area, check out this information: https://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count.