by Will Cook
The Chapel Hill spring count on May 3 was quite breezy, which kept numbers down and resulted in an average count. The overall numbers were nearly identical to last year's, with 127 species and 9924 individual birds (last year also 127 species; 10-year average 124 species, 11276 birds). Party-hours and birds per party-hour were both a little below average, nearly identical to last year's numbers.
Remarkably, three species were new to the count this year: a Common Raven west of Chapel Hill, near the same spot as the ones on the Christmas count, being chased by an American Crow (Jane Brinkley), a heard-only King Rail at Jordan Lake (Lois Schultz), and a pair of feral Mute Swans (the same as on the Christmas count). The Common Raven was being harassed by an American Crow, for a nice comparison. The raven was overdue; they've been seen in the vicinity regularly over the past few years. King Rail isn't too unexpected; they did breed once at Mason Farm, just a few miles away. Hopefully the Mute Swans on this count are truly feral instead of purchased; feral Mute Swans populations in neighboring Raleigh seem to be established and increasing. Other rarities include Pied-billed Grebe (Bob Chase), Yellow-crowned Night-Herons at the sewerline heronry near Mike and Lois Schultz's house, Chuck-will's-widow (Norm Budnitz), Red-breasted Nuthatch (Shelley Theye, at her feeder), and Pine Siskin (Cynthia Fox, at her feeder). The nesting Hooded Mergansers at Jordan Lake only made an appearance for count week this year.
We normally set quite a few record highs, but this year there was just one: the 7 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons (2 in 1991). The 10-20 mph winds during the count kept numbers for most species down. We had no big misses and set no record lows, but several were at their lowest in many years: Wood Duck (lowest since 1990), Spotted Sandpiper (1990), Yellow-billed Cuckoo (1984, just one!), Northern Flicker (1974), Barn Swallow (1973), European Starling (1974), American Redstart (1972), Common Grackle (1974), and House Sparrow (1973).
This year Pam Timmons and Perry Haaland claimed the honor of finding the most species, with 80. They covered the Dairyland Road area west of Chapel Hill. Bob Chase, covering southwestern Durham, came close, with 78, and counted the highest number of individual birds, 833.
Weather in brief: low 60 F, high 80 F; wind SW 10-20 mph; mostly cloudy; no rain.
Thanks to all of our 54 field counters and 14 feeder watchers!
Detailed Results (PDF format)
Chapel Hill Bird Club