2002 Chapel Hill Spring Bird Count - Compiler's Comments

by Will Cook

The Chapel Hill Spring Bird Count on May 12, 2002 had near the highest amount of observer effort ever (190.4 party-hours), which produced a record high count of individuals and many record high counts of individual species. The total of 122 species is average, but the total of 13706 birds beats the old record by almost 2000.

Several unusual species were found, the best of which were 2 Semipalmated Sandpipers at the Farrington Road wastewater plant (Stephen Perry and Brian Bockhahn), 2 Caspian Terns (Doug Shadwick) and 1 Forster's Tern (Ginger Travis) at Jordan Lake, and a Swainson's Warbler at New Hope Creek (Kent Fiala). Other birds we usually miss included American Black Duck and Wild Turkey.

Record highs were many, thanks in part to the high level of participation. Even with that taken into consideration, though, we had an excellent count. Great Blue Herons continue their steep ascent, thanks in large part to the breeding colony at Cub Creek, Jordan Lake, found by Alan Johnston. This year's total of 243 is over 100 more than the previous record of 138, set last year. In the recent past, 10-20 Great Blues was a normal count. We also set record highs for Great Egret, Turkey Vulture, Wood Duck, Mallard, Wild Turkey, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-headed, Red-bellied, Downy, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue- headed Vireo, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, White-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatches, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robin, Brown Thrasher, Pine Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Brown-headed Cowbird, and House Finch. The record high counts for woodpeckers may be related to the large number of dead trees from Hurricane Fran. We've also been setting record highs lately for them during the Christmas Bird Counts.

We didn't set any record lows, though we missed Bobolink for the first time since 1971, and had very low numbers of Northern Bobwhite (continuing the long decline), Solitary Sandpiper (Spotteds were numerous), and Kentucky Warbler (missed at Mason Farm this year).

The prize for the party with the highest count this year goes to the team of Shelley Theye, Jill Froning, Lee Van Malssen, Todd Bishop, and Roy Lindholm, who covered their home area near Jordan Lake and racked up 91 species and 1345 birds. This may have something to do with the rate of speed at which Jill moves (and counts). :-)

Thanks to all participants for another great count!

Participation: 58 observers in 25 groups
Party Hours: 190.4 (132.8 by foot, 51.1 by car, 6.5 by kayak)
Party Miles: 435 (114.5 by foot, 315 by car, 5.5 by kayak)
Owling: 3.75 hours and 5 miles
Weather: low 59, high 87; no precipitation; wind SW 5-10 mph; mostly sunny.

Chapel Hill Bird Club