2008 Chatham County Fall Bird Count

by Will Cook

The Chatham County Fall Migration Count on 9/20/2008 was remarkable only for how unremarkable it was. Unlike last year, when the lake level was very low and therefore there were large numbers of shorebirds, this year the lake was a foot above normal, so there were no mudflats and no shorebirds apart from Killdeer. The total species count of 94 was the lowest since 1996, the first year of the count (106 species is average). The total number of birds counted was also very low, 2597, compared to the average of 3867. Observer effort was a well below normal 51.5 party hours (average 73.8) and the number of birds per party hour was slightly below normal at 50.4 (average 54.5).

One species was new to the count: Orange-crowned Warbler, reported by Nathan Swick, a tad earlier than usual, but not too unexpected. Other goodies included Merlin (second count record, Will Cook's party), 2 Loggerhead Shrikes (second count record, Phil Warren covering the Hank's Chapel Road area), Song Sparrow (surprisingly, our second count record), Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Eastern Kingbird, and Veery.

We did manage to set or tie a few record highs, despite the lackluster overall count: 8 House Wrens (2.2 average), 23 Northern Parulas (ties record, 11.5 average), 44 American Redstarts (21.3 average), 3 Song Sparrows (0.1 average), and 20 House Sparrows (0.6 average).

The biggest miss was Rose-breasted Grosbeak, missed for the first time since the initial count. Overall, though, neotropical migrant numbers were normal, with the count of 18 warblers species, 149 non-Pine individuals, near the long-term average of 18 species, 130 individuals.

Teams with the highest counts: Tom Driscoll's party, covering Farrington Road, came in first in both species (56) and individuals (429), besting Nathan Swick and Will Cook's parties' 53 species each.

Here's the full count:

22	Canada Goose
26	Wood Duck
1	Mallard
11	Wild Turkey
82	Double-crested Cormorant
37	Great Blue Heron
42	Great Egret
21	Black Vulture
97	Turkey Vulture
13	Osprey
15	Bald Eagle   9 ad., 6 imm.
1	Sharp-shinned Hawk
2	Cooper's Hawk
15	Red-shouldered Hawk
3	Red-tailed Hawk
3	American Kestrel
1	Merlin
26	Killdeer
40	Mourning Dove
7	Yellow-billed Cuckoo
5	Eastern Screech-Owl
4	Barred Owl
123	Chimney Swift
14	Ruby-throated Hummingbird
12	Belted Kingfisher
18	Red-headed Woodpecker
53	Red-bellied Woodpecker
41	Downy Woodpecker
6	Hairy Woodpecker
23	Northern Flicker
8	Pileated Woodpecker
17	Eastern Wood-Pewee
3	Empidonax sp.
16	Eastern Phoebe
1	Great Crested Flycatcher
1	Eastern Kingbird
2	Loggerhead Shrike
6	White-eyed Vireo
3	Blue-headed Vireo
2	Yellow-throated Vireo
12	Red-eyed Vireo
127	Blue Jay
168	American Crow
6	Fish Crow
3	N Rough-winged Swallow
185	Carolina Chickadee
141	Tufted Titmouse
25	White-breasted Nuthatch
79	Brown-headed Nuthatch
77	Carolina Wren
8	House Wren
11	Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
74	Eastern Bluebird
1	Veery
4	Wood Thrush
10	American Robin
13	Gray Catbird
26	Northern Mockingbird
4	Brown Thrasher
51	European Starling
2	Tennessee Warbler
1	Orange-crowned Warbler
23	Northern Parula
2	Chestnut-sided Warbler
8	Magnolia Warbler
2	Cape May Warbler
4	Black-throated Blue Warbler
6	Black-throated Green Warbler
1	Blackburnian Warbler
3	Yellow-throated Warbler
273	Pine Warbler
2	Prairie Warbler
3	Palm Warbler
19	Black-and-white Warbler
44	American Redstart
1	Ovenbird
26	Common Yellowthroat
2	Hooded Warbler
14	Summer Tanager
14	Scarlet Tanager
31	Eastern Towhee
3	Song Sparrow
11	Chipping Sparrow
5	Field Sparrow
101	Northern Cardinal
9	Blue Grosbeak
32	Indigo Bunting
4	Red-winged Blackbird
2	Eastern Meadowlark
9	Common Grackle
2	Baltimore Oriole
15	House Finch
55	American Goldfinch
20	House Sparrow

94 species
2597 individuals

Effort: 21 counters in 9 parties. 51.5 party hours (46 foot, 5.5 car), 107 party miles (34 foot, 73 car). Owling 2.5 hour, 12 miles.

Weather: temp 53-73F, wind N 5-10 mph, no precip, overcast am, partly cloudy in pm, lake level 217.2'.

Will Cook, compiler

Detailed Results (PDF format)

Addendum: Butterflies

The butterflies produced more surprises than the birds. Here's the trip report I sent to the Carolinaleps email group:

On Saturday Sept. 20, Ted Gilliland, Carl Rothfels, and I, along with several others, kept track of butterflies while birding the peninsula between Morgan Creek and New Hope Creek (Old Hope Valley Farm Road area) near Jordan Lake, northern Chatham County, NC. It was cloudy and cool much of the day, but by the afternoon it had warmed up enough that the butterflies were hopping. The favored nectar sources were tickseed (Bidens sp.), blazing star (Liatris spp.), and Poorjoe (Diodia teres).

We had several surprises. First along the main road was a tattered, worn out Tawny Emperor, near a Sugarberry tree, of course. They've been scarce this year; missed them on the Durham count. Then we were surprised by a nice, fresh Leonard's Skipper nectaring, as expected, on a purple flower (Liatris). First I've seen in a couple of years, at least, and a lifer for Ted. Next a stunningly fresh Zebra Swallowtail crossed my path and quickly flitted from flower to flower of Maryland Golden-Aster (Chrysopsis mariana). I think that's the first time I've ever seen a butterfly on Chrysopsis!

In the powerline cut a Gulf Fritillary entertained us for a while. Normally very rare, but not too surprising considering all the reports lately. About halfway between the road and the lake along the powerline, we spotted an interesting-looking skipper that perplexed us at first. I managed to snap a couple of so-so shots before it disappeared. With persistence, Ted relocated it and we finally got a good look at the underside -- Byssus! It posed long enough for one good photo. This is a first record for Chatham County and only a second for the NC Piedmont region. I'll post photos soon. Wonder if Byssus and Leonard's have ever been seen on the same day and in the same place before.

It was a fun day for butterflies. If anyone wants to visit this spot, see directions at http://tbg.carolinanature.com/ohvfr.html, though note the sign for Old Hope Valley Farm Road is missing.

Here's the full list (27 spp.):

1 Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) - late!
1 Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

3 Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
15 Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe)

20 Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
120 Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops)
70 Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)

1 GULF FRITILLARY (Agraulis vanillae) - not so rare in 2008!
1 Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
75 Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
2 American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)
5 Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
60 Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)
5 Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax)
1 Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton)
15 Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)
1 Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

2 Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)
10 Clouded Skipper (Lerema accius)
10 Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor)
7 Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)
1 LEONARD'S SKIPPER (Hesperia leonardus) - on Liatris, as expected
1 Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles)
50 Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes)
1 BYSSUS SKIPPER (Problema byssus) - new county record!
5 Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris)
1 Ocola Skipper (Panoquina ocola) 

Chapel Hill Bird Club