2014 Chapel Hill (NC) Christmas Bird Count Summary

Rarities on the 2014 Chapel Hill CBC!

Chestnut-sided Warbler on 2014 Chapel Hill CBC
This Chestnut-sided Warbler was discovered and photographed by Andrew Thornton on the count in the brushy margin of a storage center parking lot. Click for larger size image.

Chestnut-sided Warbler on 2014 Chapel Hill CBC
This Lincoln's Sparrow was discovered and photographed by Andrew Thornton on the count in the Cub Creek area near Jordan Lake.

Chestnut-sided Warbler on 2014 Chapel Hill CBC
Another view of the Lincoln's Sparrow... or possibly another individual.

The 85th Chapel Hill Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, 21 December 2014, was one of our best ever, with a couple of exceptional rarities and many record highs! The total of 94 species ties the total in 2000, 2002, and 2007, surpassed only by 98 in 1983. The tally of 18975 individual birds was also well above average. The 10-year average count is 88.1 species, 15259 individuals. Weather was near normal with gentle winds and overcast conditions, which helped the birds stay active. The 61 participants is our second highest ever, just behind 2013 but party-hours set a record high 170, much higher than the average 136. Birds per party-hour was 111.6, right on the average 111.8, so it seems the high counts were due more to a high amount of observer effort than more abundant or active birds.

The outstanding boldface rarity of the count was a totally unexpected Chestnut-sided Warbler, photographed by Andrew Thornton in the brushy border of a storage facility near Jordan Lake. This is one of a very few if any winter records for the state. Andrew also found a Lincoln's Sparrow in the Cub Creek area. Another first for the count, though more expected. Amazingly, Derb Carter had another Lincoln's in his area on Dairyland Road.

Other goodies included a Rufous Hummingbird (8th count record), Common Raven (5th count record), Black-and-white Warbler (5th), Orange-crowned Warbler (6th), Northern Shoveler, Red-breaster Merganser, Least Sandpiper, and Baltimore Oriole. Funny, we've had Baltimore Oriole every year since 2000, but still it always seems worthy of a mention.

We set an astounding number of record highs, thanks to the high level of effort and participation: Red-shouldered Hawk (57, ties 2012), Red-headed Woodpecker (87, ties 2001), Red-bellied Woodpecker (287, 244 in 2013), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (110, 98 in 2003), Hairy Woodpecker (49, 35 in 2007), Pileated Woodpecker (39, 27 in 2012), Eastern Phoebe (53, 47 in 1993), American Crow (698, 618 in 1999), White-breasted Nuthatch (155, 136 in 2011), Brown-headed Nuthatch (173, 163 in 2011), Winter Wren (67, 57 in 2012), Brown Thrasher (46, 44 in 1976), Swamp Sparrow (413, 400 in 1934). Close to records: Ruddy Duck (second highest after 2008), Eastern Towhee (second after 1976), Song Sparrow (second after 1978), Pine Siskin (second after 2012), and American Goldfinch (second after 2001). Also quite high: White-throated Sparrow (highest since 1995).

The only remarkably low count was a solitary Eastern Meadowlark, the lowest since 1929.

Team honors: This year Andrew Thornton, covering the Cub Creek area near Jordan Lake, scored the highest species count, with 69 species (1192 individuals). Derb Carter finished second with 64 species at Dairyland Road. Will Cook's team covering Mason Farm tallied the most individuals, with 1507, boosted by outstanding numbers of sparrows.

Weather: Temperature 38-50 F, wind from the east at 0-8 mph, mostly cloudy, no precipitation, water open. Effort: 61 observers in 26 field parties, 170 party hours (142.2 by foot, 27.8 by car) and 326.5 party miles (91 by foot, 235.5 by car), 7.92 hours and 22.25 miles owling, 7 people and 12 hours watching feeders.

Thanks to all the participants for helping with this outstanding count!

-- Will Cook, compiler

Full results in PDF format

Chapel Hill Bird Club