2004 Chatham County Fall Bird Count

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