2003 Chatham County Fall Bird Count

by Will Cook

The 2003 Chatham County (NC) Fall Count on Sept. 20, part of the North American Migration Count, was an average count in terms of number of species, individual birds, and participation. This year we ended up with 98 species (average 101) and 3381 birds (average 3625). We had 17 observers in 13 parties (averages 21 and 12) and 67.3 party-hours (average 74). This count was even average on a birds per party-hour basis, with 50.3 (average 51.7).

Not-so-average, five species are new to the count this year -- an Acadian Flycatcher heard and a Kentucky Warbler seen by Norm Budnitz and Patsy Bailey near Patsy's home, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher seen by Will Cook at the Indian Creek Wildlife Observation Site trail, 3 Tree Swallows seen flying over the Northeast Creek Impoundment by Will Cook, and a Song Sparrow seen by Amalie Tuffin at Big Woods Road. Other goodies included our second count records for both Common and Forster's Terns at Ebenezer (Josh Rose and Jim Coulton) and third Red-breasted Nuthatches (Andy Upshaw). One bird that may have been a first count record, but was a bit too far to clinch the ID, was a possible hurricane-blown Sandwich Tern seen by Norm at Vista Point.

We set a number of record highs: Red-shouldered Hawk (27), Ring-billed Gull (76), Caspian Tern (19), Common Tern (12), Forster's Tern (41), Yellow-billed Cuckoo (17), Belted Kingfisher (18), Great Crested Flycatcher (5), Red-breasted Nuthatch (2), American Robin (68), Ovenbird (7), and Scarlet Tanager (36). In addition, a flock of 100 small tern sp. was seen in the afternoon from the Farrington Road bridge by Ginger Travis and Norm Budnitz. The large numbers of terns and gulls may have been blown in by Hurricane Isabel, which passed well to the east two days before the count. Our previous record high for all terns and gulls combined was just 5; this year we had about 250.

We set two record lows, Red-tailed Hawk (2) and Wood Thrush (1). Big misses this year include Green Heron and Sharp-shinned Hawk.

We had an average warbler count with 19 species (average 19) and 130 non-Pine individuals (average 145). Most common warblers were Pine (78), American Redstart (33), Common Yellowthroat (30), Northern Parula (12), and Magnolia Warbler (11).

Because of the high water levels, we had no mudflats and almost no shorebirds - a pathetic 2 species and 1 non-Killdeer individual (a Spotted). That's still better than last year, though!

Best individual party count this was Will's 64 species and 766 birds in the 751 bridge area.

Thanks to all participants! Pray for mudflats (and shorebirds) next year!

Will Cook, compiler

Detailed Results (PDF format)

Chapel Hill Bird Club