While my primary objective is to count the raptors, I also keep track of all migrants. The largest groups of these other birds are the Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes. They are normally pretty easy to get a handle on, but more recently they’ve been a little more difficult. The last few weeks have seen small groups of these large birds, often flying in a single line or loose group. However, the couple of good count days have seen hundreds of them passing in large and small groups, at eye-level, directly overhead, and very distant over the water.
Sometimes I am even unable to determine what they are! They are far enough away that they are distorted and all I see are smudges in a line. At those distances I often can’t get an accurate count either, even if I could ID them. When they are closer though, they have started to migrate in large groups, sometimes over a hundred at a time! How do I count them? Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes were the first species this year that I broke out my hand clickers. Instead of keeping track in my head, I watch the line of them go by, breaking them up visually into groups of up to five. Then I let my hand do the clicking as they pass by. I don’t dare take my eyes off them to check the count until the line is done or I will lose my place.