by Will Cook
The cool, drizzly 2007 Chapel Hill spring count on May 5 recorded an excellent 127 species and 9824 individual birds (10-year average 123.5 species, 11153 birds). This was the second highest species count for us in the last 18 years. Though a little below average in number of individuals, this was mostly due to the below average participation -- the 68.2 birds per party-hour is near the average of 69.6.
Snowy Egret was the rarest find on the count, only our second. Ginger Travis's team and Jacob Socolar, covering different arms of Jordan Lake by canoe, reported one Snowy each, Ginger from the Morgan Creek arm, and Jacob from the New Hope Creek arm. It's possible there was only one bird, but we cannot know for sure. There was an outstanding array of other goodies -- an American Black Duck at Mason Farm (Will Cook's party), 2 Hooded Mergansers at Jordan Lake (Socolar), 2 Common Loons at Jordan Lake (Travis), Little Blue Heron at Jordan Lake (Amalie Tuffin and Shelley Theye), Black-crowned Night-Heron (Travis), Northern Harrier (Cook), Lesser Yellowlegs at Mason Farm and the wastewater plant on Farrington Road (Cook and Nathan Swick), Semipalmated Sandpiper at Mason Farm (Cook), 4 Forster's Terns at Jordan Lake (Travis), White-crowned Sparrow on Dairyland Road (Derb Carter), and Blue-winged, Cape May, and Blackburnian Warblers (Tuffin party). Hooded Mergansers nested in the New Hope Creek arm of Jordan Lake this spring -- scouting before the count, Jacob Socolar found 5 young with 1 adult. The nesting Yellow-crowned Night-Herons in Durham (Mike Schultz) were present during count week, but missed on count day.
As usual, we set a few record highs: 81 Wood Ducks (77 in 2002), 27 Bald Eagles (25 in 2006), 34 Pileated Woodpeckers (33 in 2002), 119 Black-throated Blue Warblers (114 in 2003), 59 Song Sparrows (57 in 2006), 41 Orchard Orioles (33 in 1979). I reduced the total of Bald Eagles by 15 to account for probable overlap in adjacent areas. Other unusually abundant species included Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, Belted Kingfisher, Barn Swallow, Yellow Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Swamp Sparrow, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak (10 at Shelley Theye's feeder!).
We missed Northern Bobwhite for the second year in a row -- only our third miss ever, continuing the trend. Other unusually scarce birds included Green Heron (lowest since 1972), Rock Pigeon (lowest since 1975), Chimney Swift (lowest since 1974), European Starling (lowest since 1974), and Indigo Bunting (lowest since 1984).
This year honors for highest species count and individual count both go to the team of Amalie Tuffin and Shelley Theye, who covered the Big Woods Road area near Jordan Lake. They found 88 species, 931 individuals, and were followed by the teams led by Doug Shadwick (86 species, Jordan Lake area) and Will Cook (85 species, Mason Farm).
Weather in brief: low 55 F, high 66 F; wind N 0-5 mph; cloudy; light rain.
Thanks to the 44 participants for helping make this another fun count!
Detailed Results (PDF format)
Chapel Hill Bird Club