by Will Cook
The 2012 Chatham County Fall Migration Count on 9/16/2012 was a bit of a washout, with light to heavy rain all morning, leading to difficult birding conditions and some birding parties dropping out of the count. With lake levels a little above normal pool, there were few shorebirds, further dampening our totals. We found an even 100 species and 2840 individuals, a bit below the average of 105 species and 3700 individuals, but typical for a year with no mudflat habitat. Observer effort was a low 53.75 party-hours (average 66). For those of us that managed to slog it out, it was a decent day warbler-wise, with 22 species and 402 individuals well above average. Birds per party-hour was 52.8, below the average of 57.8, but good for a non-shorebird year.
The best bird was a Common Raven heard by Andrew Thornton. Raven is new to the count, but not unexpected, perhaps even overdue, as local sightings have been increasing greatly in recent years. Other rarities included Eastern Kingbird (Bo Howes's team), Gray-cheeked Thrush (Thornton), Worm-eating Warbler (Howes), Nashville Warbler (Thornton), Blackpoll Warbler (Mike Tove), Wilson's Warbler (Tove), and a count week Black-billed Cuckoo (Tove).
Despite the deluge, we still managed to set a few record highs: 4 Pied-billed Grebes (average 0.6), 37 Ruby-throated Hummingbird (avg 13), 26 Pileated Woodpecker (avg 13), 5 Eastern Kingbird (avg 0.5), 8 Veery (avg 0.9), 46 Swainson's Thrush (avg 3), and 39 Northern Mockingbird (avg 20). The amazing migrant thrush totals were due to Andrew Thornton's efforts listening for their distinctive nocturnal flight calls.
One species set a record low this year: 2 Wood Duck (25 average). Canada Goose was also quite low, with 13 the lowest since 1996, the first year of the count (average 64). The biggest miss was House Wren.
Shorebirds were in very short supply because of the lacking habitat: compare this year's 3 individuals in 3 species with last year's amazing tally of 851 individuals in 12 species. Warblers had a excellent showing, with a high 22 species (average 18) and overall warbler numbers were also well above average, with 402 individuals (average 332). Subtracting the Pine Warblers better reveals the migrant warbler picture better: 151 non-Pines (average 135).
Highest team counts: Andrew Thornton, covering the southwestern parts of Chatham County, had the best species total by far, with 76; Will Cook's team, covering the NC 751 area, was a distant second with 61. For the tally of individual birds, Will Cook's team came in first with 614 birds, with Andrew Thornton second with 531.
Here's the full count:
13 Canada Goose 2 Wood Duck 8 Mallard 4 Pied-billed Grebe 48 Double-crested Cormorant 58 Great Blue Heron 40 Great Egret 2 Green Heron 23 Black Vulture 89 Turkey Vulture 9 Osprey 13 Bald Eagle 8 ad., 5 imm. 13 Red-shouldered Hawk 4 Red-tailed Hawk 3 American Kestrel 1 Killdeer 1 Solitary Sandpiper 1 Spotted Sandpiper 2 Rock Pigeon 86 Mourning Dove 4 Yellow-billed Cuckoo cw Black-billed Cuckoo 6 Eastern Screech-Owl 3 Great Horned Owl 4 Barred Owl 1 E. Whip-poor-will 66 Chimney Swift 37 Ruby-throated Hummingbird 12 Belted Kingfisher 10 Red-headed Woodpecker 38 Red-bellied Woodpecker 51 Downy Woodpecker 3 Hairy Woodpecker 12 Northern Flicker 26 Pileated Woodpecker 13 Eastern Wood-Pewee 1 Acadian Flycatcher 21 Eastern Phoebe 5 Eastern Kingbird 26 White-eyed Vireo 1 Blue-headed Vireo 2 Yellow-throated Vireo 14 Red-eyed Vireo 95 Blue Jay 190 American Crow 18 Fish Crow 1 COMMON RAVEN 200 Carolina Chickadee 167 Tufted Titmouse 19 White-breasted Nuthatch 45 Brown-headed Nuthatch 112 Carolina Wren 10 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 64 Eastern Bluebird 8 Veery 1 Gray-cheeked Thrush 46 Swainson's Thrush 5 Wood Thrush 13 American Robin 13 Gray Catbird 39 Northern Mockingbird 11 Brown Thrasher 27 European Starling 1 Ovenbird 1 Worm-eating Warbler 4 Northern Waterthrush 24 Black-and-white Warbler 4 Tennessee Warbler 1 Nashville Warbler 23 Common Yellowthroat 6 Hooded Warbler 25 American Redstart 3 Cape May Warbler 24 Northern Parula 11 Magnolia Warbler 2 Blackburnian Warbler 3 Chestnut-sided Warbler 1 Blackpoll Warbler 1 Black-throated Blue Warbler 13 Palm Warbler 251 Pine Warbler 1 Yellow-throated Warbler 1 Prairie Warbler 1 Wilson's Warbler 1 Yellow-breasted Chat 23 Eastern Towhee 1 Song Sparrow 56 Chipping Sparrow 6 Field Sparrow 11 Summer Tanager 9 Scarlet Tanager 154 Northern Cardinal 6 Rose-breasted Grosbeak 20 Blue Grosbeak 73 Indigo Bunting 10 Bobolink 1 Eastern Meadowlark 1 Baltimore Oriole 14 House Finch 182 American Goldfinch 11 House Sparrow 100 species 2840 individuals
Effort: 17 counters in 9 parties. 53.75 party hours (48 foot, 5.75 car), 114 party miles (30.5 foot, 83.5 car). Owling 2 hours, 1 mile.
Weather: temp 59-64F, wind NE 0-7 mph, light-heavy rain in am, overcast in pm, lake level 216.15'
Thanks to the dedicated counters for slogging through the rain to find some birds!
Will Cook, compiler
Detailed Results (PDF format)
Chapel Hill Bird Club