Twas the Night Before the Christmas Bird Count

From Homebase in Oak Harbor. Ohio, Kimberly Writes: My friend Katie Andersen is so creative. She wrote this great poem about the joy and insanity of doing Christmas Bird Counts to the theme of Twas the Night Before Christmas. I think you'll like it as much as I did - and I hope you'll share some of your favorite CBC stories with us!

Twas the Night Before the Christmas Bird Count
by Katie Andersen

‘Twas an hour before the Christmas Bird Count, when we left our warm house;

Not a songbird was stirring, not even a Titmouse.

Binoculars were hung over downy vests with great care,

In anticipation of the birds that would soon fill the air.

While our neighbors were still snug in their beds,

To the count circle we birders did head.

And I in my hoodie and my friend in her Tilley Hat

Had just hiked to the spot marked on our count map

When, alerted by a Winter Wren’s scolding chatter,

We snatched up our optics to see what was the matter.

Quite annoyed by the Wren, the Screech Owl flew off in a flash;

Both species’ numbers I noted with a quick, inky slash.

The rising sun glinted off the pale frigid snow,

And we searched for more birds as our toes slowly froze.

Then, what to our wondering eyes should appear,

But an unseasonably late flock of eight flying Killdeer!

She documents their presence with a quick camera click,

While I mark up the notebook with another scrawled tick.

More rapidly now with the dawn the birds came,

And in hushed tones we consulted, counted, and call’d them by name:

“Tree Sparrows – Twelve! No, wait, add seven more,

Oh! Grackles! Oh! Red-wings! Oh! Juncos to the fore!

Check the tops of these sumacs; I hear a Cedar Waxwing’s call!

Hey, don’t miss those Butter-butts, our only warblers since Fall!”

These small flocks suddenly took to the sky,

And off to new destinations they all did fly.

Our wind-swept field was now quiet and we both knew

It was time to head back to the car - and grab some coffee, too!

We remember not to leave field guides or optics on the car’s roof,

It’s a past lesson not soon forgotten - that’s the truth!

As we called our count leader and were assigned to new ground,

In the distance I thought an amazing bird my eyes had found.

It was dressed all in white, from its head to talon’d foot,

With dark breast markings, like smudges of soot!

We jumped from the car and she pulled out the scope from its pack;

Seconds later, she laughed as I gave my head a smack.

My brow – how it wrinkled! Then our laughter became merry,

And that silly moment we always will carry.

My prized Snowy Owl - can you guess? Do you know?

‘Twas an old rotten tree stump, covered in snow!

Back to the warm car to still our chattering teeth,

Before reaching our next spot, where we find a flock at a feast.

Flitting Kinglets and Yellow-rumps with round little bellies,

And White-breasted Nuthatches who ate sap as though it were jelly.

Look, there was the Sapsucker, himself;

Squawking at the raiders as he guarded his wealth.

With a glare of his eye and a jab of his head,

He told the free-loaders to go find their own food instead.

We spoke not a word, but went straight to our work,

Identifying and counting, this task we won’t shirk.

Species and hash marks in quickly scribbled rows

Noted a Red-tailed chased by some Blue Jays and Crows.
At day's end, we turned in our lists and wet our parched whistles,

While with the other birders we flocked, like Finches upon thistles.

And we exclaimed to each other, as we heard Tundra Swans overhead in the night –

“It’s not midnight, yet – we can still count those guys… right?!”

Happy Birding to All! ^_^


  1. Haha! I enjoyed that...very creative! :-)

  2. That was simply awesome, do you mind if I share?

  3. Thanks, everyone! Isn't Katie great?! She shared this on my Facebook wall and I just had to share it on our blog!

    Angie: Please feel free to share it! I think Katie would like that. But, could you please credit her?! Thanks!

    Robert: I considered sharing this in place of the post I'm working on for my January post to Birding is Fun blog, but I was afraid it might be too late for it by then. I promise my post for BiF will be good, too!

  4. I'm tickled so many people have enjoyed this! By all means, please share if you want; just toss my name in there somewhere when you do so when Hollywood decides to make the movie adaptation they'll know where to send the check. :D
    I would like to note that Kim was the inspiration for this (with additional creativity fueled by the almighty combination of sleep deprivation and caffeine) and I thank her for all she has done!
    Happy birding, everyone! ^_^

  5. Cool blog I am doing a junior big year this year partialy inspired by your book, Kingbird Highway. My blog is called 2012 Junior Big Year. Cool Blog!

  6. Great blog. If it wasn't for your book, kingbird highway, I wouldn't be attempting a junior big year right now. You should check out my big year blog at

  7. Wonderful poem! Wishing you a very birdy holiday season.


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