by Will Cook
The 9th Chatham County Fall Migration Count on 9/18/2004, part of the North American Migration Count, was both blessed and cursed by the weather. With the remnants of Hurricane Ivan blowing by on count day, we found a few interesting seabirds, but the steady cool rain during the best birding hours of the day suppressed the land birds as well as the counters' spirits. We ended up with 96 species for the day (5 below average) and 2278 birds (40% below average), but observer effort was also far below average, with party-hours 42% below average. The birding effort was greatly hindered by steady rain from 7:30-11:30 am (with scattered rain thereafter), as well as illnesses and busy schedules. On a birds per party-hour basis, this year's 53.9 was slightly above the average 51.5, due mainly to the large flocks of small terns.
Ivan didn't bring us anything as obviously storm-related as a tubenose, but we did get a selection of probably storm-related species. Any of these apparent storm birds can occur at Jordan in the fall, but we don't usually get them all at once. Storm birds include: (1) Shorebirds. This is our second best shorebird species count, only bettered by the 1998 count, when we had extensive mudflats. (2) Larids. Laughing Gull (seen by 4 parties), Sabine's Gull (Will Cook), and Black Tern (3 parties) are new to the count. We had comparable Sterna numbers last year, but those were also probably storm-related - last year's count was shortly after Hurricane Isabel. Unfortunately the Sabine's, a first report for Jordan Lake, didn't stick around - I couldn't even refind it right after my 30-second look. (3) Swallows. We had the grand slam of swallows, getting all five species expected at this time of year. Bank (Will Cook), Cliff (Steve Shultz), and Barn Swallow (3 parties) are new to the count; Bank and Cliff are record late dates for the area. Steve checked the Cliffs carefully to make sure they weren't Caves! We've only had swallows on two counts before, maximum 3 individuals, 1 species. This year's 35 individuals, 5 species is amazing in contrast.
Besides the first count records listed above, rarish species include Semipalmated Plover (Ricky Davis - heard only), Greater Yellowlegs (RD -h.o.), Semipalmated Sandpiper (Josh Rose and Rachel Harden), Least Flycatcher (Tom Driscoll), Philadelphia Vireo (Will Cook), Tree Swallow (WC and Ginger Travis), and N Rough-winged Swallow (Steve Shultz).
We set a few record highs, despite the low level of participation: Bald Eagle (28, average 8.5), Sanderling (6, avg 0.5), Common Tern (80, avg 1.6), Forster's Tern (90, avg 5.6), and Philadelphia Vireo (2, avg 0.3).
We set 23 record lows, too numerous to mention separately. Lowlights include first misses for Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Magnolia Warbler, and Wood Thrush. Indeed, we completely missed all thrushes. We had only 14 warbler species this year, just 36 non-Pine individuals - average 19 and 149. Suffice it to say, in general the land birding sucked.
Here's the full count, in current AOU order. I've reduced the totals for 15 species (420 birds) to account for different observers counting the same birds.
69 Canada Goose 8 Wood Duck 1 Wild Turkey 130 Double-crested Cormorant 80 Great Blue Heron 70 Great Egret 1 Little Blue Heron 35 Black Vulture 110 Turkey Vulture 15 Osprey 28 Bald Eagle 2 Cooper's Hawk 1 Accipiter sp. 4 Red-shouldered Hawk 1 Broad-winged Hawk 7 Red-tailed Hawk 1 Semipalmated Plover 8 Killdeer 1 Greater Yellowlegs 2 Spotted Sandpiper 6 Sanderling 2 Semipalmated Sandpiper 6 Laughing Gull 2 Ring-billed Gull 1 Sabine's Gull 8 Caspian Tern 15 Black Tern 80 Common Tern 90 Forster's Tern 45 Sterna sp. 6 Rock Pigeon 72 Mourning Dove 3 Eastern Screech-Owl 1 Great Horned Owl 200 Chimney Swift 6 Ruby-throated Hummingbird 7 Belted Kingfisher 5 Red-headed Woodpecker 19 Red-bellied Woodpecker 14 Downy Woodpecker 2 Hairy Woodpecker 6 Northern Flicker 5 Pileated Woodpecker 1 Eastern Wood-Pewee 1 Least Flycatcher 2 Empidonax sp. 8 Eastern Phoebe 1 White-eyed Vireo 2 Philadelphia Vireo 3 Red-eyed Vireo 78 Blue Jay 132 American Crow 2 Fish Crow 1 Tree Swallow 6 N. Rough-winged Swallow 2 Bank Swallow 2 Cliff Swallow 19 Barn Swallow 5 Swallow sp. 118 Carolina Chickadee 102 Tufted Titmouse 4 White-breasted Nuthatch 21 Brown-headed Nuthatch 108 Carolina Wren 3 House Wren 9 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 27 Eastern Bluebird 2 American Robin 3 Gray Catbird 10 Northern Mockingbird 2 Brown Thrasher 12 European Starling 1 Tennessee Warbler 6 Northern Parula 3 Chestnut-sided Warbler 1 Cape May Warbler 1 Black-throated Blue Warbler 1 Black-throated Green Warbler 84 Pine Warbler 1 Bay-breasted Warbler 4 Black-and-white Warbler 4 American Redstart 1 Ovenbird 1 Northern Waterthrush 8 Common Yellowthroat 4 Hooded Warbler 17 Summer Tanager 5 Scarlet Tanager 7 Eastern Towhee 6 Chipping Sparrow 18 Field Sparrow 99 Northern Cardinal 3 Rose-breasted Grosbeak 8 Blue Grosbeak 82 Indigo Bunting 1 Eastern Meadowlark 8 Common Grackle 2 Brown-headed Cowbird 10 House Finch 31 American Goldfinch
Noctural observations (included in totals): 1 GH Owl. The 3 E Screech-Owls were heard mid-day, responding to my imitation of their call.
Effort: 12 counters in 10 parties. 42.3 party hours (29.75 foot, 7.25 car, 5.3 boat), 136.75 party miles (21.75 foot, 87 car, 28 boat). Owling 0.75 hour, 1.5 miles.
Weather: temp 61-71F, wind W 5-15mph, 0.5" precip (light to heavy rain in morning), overcast, lake level 216.4'.
Come join us next year - we should have better weather!
Will Cook, compiler
Detailed Results (PDF format)
Chapel Hill Bird Club