by Will Cook
This year's count held great promise, as the drought created some great shorebird habitat at Falls Lake, but at Jordan Lake the mudflats were just barely beginning to emerge, so the shorebird count was good, but not spectacular. Last year we had extensive mudflats and had an astounding 130 species on the count. This year with high water and hot, dry weather, the birding was just so-so and we ended up with an even hundred species (average 104.5). The lake level was 214.6 feet above sea level, 1.7 feet below average for the count. Extensive mudflats generally appear when the lake level is around 214 feet. The warm, sunny weather kept land bird activity low. This year's count of 2603 individuals is far below the average of 3684 and less than half of last year's record-breaking total. Observer effort was a little below average, with 62.25 party-hours (average 67.4), yet we still ended up with a near record number of birds per party-hour, 72 (average 54).
One species was new to the count: a Prothonotary Warbler graced the NC 751 causeway over Jordan Lake, seen by Will Cook's party. This is a long-overdue first - they're fairly common in the area during breeding season. Other rarities included 3 Northern Shovelers (4th count record), a Song Sparrow (common in winter, but just the 4th record for the fall count), and an Orchard Oriole, which like Prothonotary is common here in summer, but rare this late (4th count record).
We set just a few record highs: 37 Bald Eagles (average 12), 6 American Kestrels (1.7), 7 Eastern Screech-Owls (2.7), and 45 Red-headed Woodpeckers (20).
No record lows this year, but Canada Geese were in short supply: 15 (average 62).
While shorebirds weren't around in great numbers, we did get 9 species, well above the average of 6. We only managed 16 warbler species, below the average of 18. The 224 warblers counted is far below the average 338. Birds per party-hour was the second-lowest at 41.8 (average 56.1).
Teams with the highest counts: Will Cook's party of six birders, covering the NC 751 area, came in first in both species (64, 25 below last year's count for this area) and individuals (675, less than half last year's count for the area). Doug Shadwick's party, covering the Morgan Creek and western New Hope Creek mudflats from Old Hope Valley Farm Road, came in second with 57 species and 476 individuals.
Here's the full count:
15 Canada Goose 9 Wood Duck 29 Mallard 23 Blue-winged Teal 3 Northern Shoveler 41 Double-crested Cormorant 60 Great Blue Heron 175 Great Egret 59 Black Vulture 111 Turkey Vulture 20 Osprey 37 Bald Eagle 16 ad., 21 imm. 1 Cooper's Hawk 9 Red-shouldered Hawk 1 Broad-winged Hawk 5 Red-tailed Hawk 6 American Kestrel 4 Semipalmated Plover 54 Killdeer 2 Greater Yellowlegs 10 Lesser Yellowlegs 2 Solitary Sandpiper 4 Spotted Sandpiper 8 Least Sandpiper 5 Pectoral Sandpiper 2 Wilson's Snipe 3 Caspian Tern 2 Forster's Tern 76 Mourning Dove 4 Yellow-billed Cuckoo 7 Eastern Screech-Owl 1 Great Horned Owl 5 Barred Owl 5 Whip-poor-will 2 Chimney Swift 16 Ruby-throated Hummingbird 8 Belted Kingfisher 45 Red-headed Woodpecker 62 Red-bellied Woodpecker 39 Downy Woodpecker 4 Hairy Woodpecker 18 Northern Flicker 14 Pileated Woodpecker 10 Eastern Wood-Pewee 12 Eastern Phoebe 3 Great Crested Flycatcher 21 White-eyed Vireo 2 Yellow-throated Vireo 9 Red-eyed Vireo 86 Blue Jay 171 American Crow 11 Fish Crow 156 Carolina Chickadee 163 Tufted Titmouse 30 White-breasted Nuthatch 46 Brown-headed Nuthatch 90 Carolina Wren 2 House Wren 14 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet 60 Eastern Bluebird 1 Veery 2 Swainson's Thrush 4 American Robin 14 Gray Catbird 11 Northern Mockingbird 6 Brown Thrasher 36 European Starling 2 Tennessee Warbler 18 Northern Parula 4 Yellow Warbler 3 Chestnut-sided Warbler 7 Magnolia Warbler 2 Black-throated Blue Warbler 3 Blackburnian Warbler 2 Yellow-throated Warbler 91 Pine Warbler 5 Palm Warbler 16 Black-and-white Warbler 24 American Redstart 1 Prothonotary Warbler 5 Ovenbird 14 Northern Waterthrush 27 Common Yellowthroat 10 Summer Tanager 6 Scarlet Tanager 16 Eastern Towhee 1 Song Sparrow 43 Chipping Sparrow 1 Field Sparrow 103 Northern Cardinal 2 Rose-breasted Grosbeak 38 Blue Grosbeak 68 Indigo Bunting 1 Bobolink 1 Red-winged Blackbird 50 Common Grackle 1 Orchard Oriole 7 House Finch 64 American Goldfinch 100 species 2603 individuals
Effort: 17 counters in 10 parties. 62.25 party hours (50.5 foot, 6.75 car, 5 boat), 99.75 party miles (29.75 foot, 62 car, 8 boat). Owling 3 hours, 25.5 mile.
Weather: temp 66-86 F, wind NE 5-10 mph, no precip, clear, lake level 214.6'
Thanks for your help, counters!
Will Cook, compiler
Detailed Results (PDF format)
Chapel Hill Bird Club