2012 Chatham County Fall Bird Count

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
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