2006 Chapel Hill Spring Bird Count - Compiler's Comments

by Will Cook

The 2006 Chapel Hill spring count on May 6 wasn't nearly as spectacular as last year's, but we still did pretty well, with 125 species and 11382 individual birds, both slightly above the 10-year average of 123 species and 10637 birds. We had a near-average number of groups (24) and counters (45), and the 151.3 party-hours was just slightly below the average of 156.7.

We found only a few rarities this time around, unlike last year, when they seemed to be dripping from the trees. Highlights included a pair of Hooded Mergansers found by Judy Murray at Jordan Lake, our fourth straight report. Last year in the same location one young was seen, the first local nesting evidence. Pied-billed Grebes were another highlight, our first since 1991, with singles reported by both Pam Timmons's and Betty King's parties. And for the second year in a row, the team of Betty King, Barbara Roth, and Judy Teague observed a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at the New Hope Creek Waterfowl Impoundment on NC 54. Other goodies included 8 Chuck-will's-widows (7 heard by Jacob Socolar, 1 by Norm Budnitz), a Bank Swallow (Derb Carter), a Hermit Thrush (Doug Shadwick), and a Canada Warbler (Tom Driscoll's party).

We set record highs for 12 species: we had 25 Bald Eagles (ties 2003), 8 Chuck-will's-widows (previous high just 1!), 88 Acadian Flycatchers (81 in 1992), 108 Great Crested Flycatchers (80 in 2005), 75 Fish Crows (55 in 2002), an astounding 585 Carolina Wrens (512 in 2005) and 61 House Wrens (45 in 2005), 119 Gray Catbirds (112 in 2005), 7 Magnolia Warblers (ties 1986), 53 Prothonotary Warblers (52 in 2005), 143 Summer Tanagers (130 in 2001), and 57 Song Sparrows (53 in 2003).

We missed Northern Bobwhite for only the second time ever. This was not unexpected, since we've only averaged just 6 for the last 10 counts. They used to be much more common in the area, averaging 92 during the years 1960-1985. However, Eastern Meadowlark, another declining species found in similar habitats as Bobwhite, actually did fairly well this year, with a count of 33 vs. last year's record low 3. Another big miss this year was Northern Waterthrush -- we average 7 on a count and hadn't missed this fairly common migrant since 1965. Also unusually low: Northern Flicker (lowest since 1974), European Starling (lowest since 1975), American Redstart, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Blue Grosbeak.

Honors for highest species total this year go to the Mason Farm team (Will Cook, Lisa Merschel, Steve Quinley, John Kim, Gervasio PiƱeiro, Michael Szpir, and Martine Nehrig) with 86 species, followed by Brian Bockhahn with 80 species in the Stagecoach Road area. The team of Tom & Barbara Driscoll and Colyer Durovich had the highest individual tally, with 1147 birds (71 species) in the Eastwood Lake and Turkey Farm Road areas.

Weather in brief: low 60 F, high 81 F; no rain; wind NW 5-10 mph; partly cloudy to clear.

Thanks to all 45 field participants and 8 feeder watchers for participating!

Detailed Results (PDF format)

Chapel Hill Bird Club