by Will Cook
The 44th Chapel Hill spring bird count on 5/6/2001 was very slow for most folks -- surprising, considering that the count was held when migration is normally peaking. We found 118 species, well below the average of 123. However, due to a high level of participation, we counted 11,328 individual birds, our second highest ever but near the average for birds/party hour. Unlike last year, we didn't find any outstanding rarities. The best birds included 3 Common Loons on Jordan Lake (Alan Johnston's party; first since 1993), 3 Great Egrets (Judy Murray and Edith Tatum's parties), 3 Wild Turkeys (Les Todd and Maury Graves's parties), 4 Lesser Yellowlegs at the Farrington Road sewage plant (Brian Bockhahn; first since 1989), 1 Caspian Tern (Pam Timmons's party; only our fourth count record), and 2 Gray-cheeked Thrushes (Jim Bloor and John Frederick).
The number of parties and party-hours was the highest in many years, so we set a number of record highs. Counts of Great Blue Herons have been increasing rapidly with the discovery last year of our first ever heronry, found on Cub Creek near Jordan Lake by Alan Johnston and Edith Tatum. The count of 138 Great Blue Herons shattered the record of 87 from last year, which shattered the record of 23 from the previous year. Alan counted 44 active nests this year, compared to 18 last year (and none the year before). We also set or tied record highs for Great Egret (tie), Black Vulture (second record high in a row), Wood Duck, Bald Eagle (tie), Blue-headed Vireo (tie), American Crow (second year in a row), Cliff Swallow, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Pine Warbler (second year in a row), Summer Tanager (second year in a row; Scarlet Tanager numbers were average), Northern Cardinal (second year in a row), and Indigo Bunting (second year in a row). We also had very high counts for Great Crested Flycatcher, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Parula, Prothonotary Warbler, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Chipping Sparrow, and Brown-headed Cowbird.
A few species were seen in unusually low numbers. We missed both Veery and Swainson's Thrush -- the first time we've ever missed both in the same year (Gray-cheeked was a nice consolation prize, though!). We haven't had a lower count for Yellow Warbler since 1962. Yellow-throated and Prairie Warblers were well below average. Field Sparrows continued their decline with the lowest count since 1969. We missed Rose-breasted Grosbeak for the first time since 1990 and had the smallest flock of Bobolinks since 1974.
Detailed Results (PDF format)
Chapel Hill Bird Club