by Will Cook
The totals for the Chapel Hill spring count on Saturday, May 9, 2015 were most remarkable in that they were almost an exact match of last year's totals - with 116 species (same as last year) and 8158 individuals (8157 last year). This species total is quite low, 7 below the 10-year average of 123 species and tied for the lowest species count since 1974. The number of individual birds counted was also a little low (average 9189). It was a very slow day for migrants and the strong winds didn't help matters. We had a great amount of effort on the count, with 145.5 party-hours (average 131.2), but the birds just weren't very active, so we had just 56.1 birds per party hour (average 69.7), the lowest since 1996.
Without a doubt Mississippi Kite was the bird of the count this year, with one found by David and Judy Smith while they were checking a Bald Eagle nest at the Big Woods Road swamp and another by Ginger Travis 3.5 miles away, while she exploring the Morgan Creek arm of Jordan Lake by canoe. These are the first reports in the 59-year history of the Chapel Hill count. Ginger also got the second-best birds of the count, hearing a total of 5 King Rails in 3 different locations in the Cub Creek and Morgan Creek arms of Jordan Lake. Two flyby Blue-winged Teal at Mason Farm (Will Cook) were a first for that area. Other goodies on the count included Hooded Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, Chuck-will's-widow, Worm-eating Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and some lingering Pine Siskins.
We had one record high this year and one tie: 5 King Rails (ties last year) and 81 Fish Crows (75 in 2006). Also in unusually high numbers: Osprey (2nd highest), Bald Eagle, Acadian Flycatcher (2nd), Great Crested Flycatcher (2nd), and Summer Tanager (2nd).
There were no big misses but quite a few species were remarkably scarce: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Northern Flicker (lowest since 1974), Eastern Phoebe (lowest since 1974), Purple Martin, Swainson's Thrush, Cedar Waxwing (lowest since 1973), Black-and-white Warbler (lowest since 1971), American Redstart (15 is the lowest since 1957, average 48), Black-throated Blue Warbler (lowest since 2000), and Yellow-breasted Chat (lowest since 1971).
Team honors: Will Cook's team, covering Mason Farm and the southwest Durham sewage plant, recorded 84 species and 883 indivudual birds, the highest for both.
Weather in brief: low 65F, high 85F; wind NE 10-15 mph; mostly cloudy, no rain.
Thanks to the 41 field counters and 4 feeder watchers for your help!
Detailed Results (PDF format)
Chapel Hill Bird Club