2017 Chapel Hill Spring Bird Count — Compiler's Comments

by Will Cook

Rare Birds on the Chapel Hill Spring Bird Count!
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Willow Flycatcher on 2017 Chapel Hill CBC
This Willow Flycatcher, photographed by Mark Goodwin, could not be identified, so Mark Kosiewski played a recording of Willow Flycatcher, and the flycatcher actively replied "ritz-bew" for several minutes. A first for the count!

Black-billed Cuckoo on 2017 Chapel Hill CBC
Mark Goodwin found this Black-billed Cuckoo at Briar Chapel trail on May 8 and fortunately he was able to relocate it on count day.

Dickcissel on 2017 Chapel Hill CBC
Jan Hansen spotted this Dickcissel at Maple View Farm on Dairyland Road, west of Chapel Hill, another count first!

We had an excellent Chapel Hill spring count on Saturday, May 13, 2017, with the second highest species count in the last 30 years, though for numbers of individual birds it was quite average. The calm, cool, overcast conditions made for very pleasant counting and no doubt helped the count by keeping the birds active throughout the day. The species total of 130 is 9 above the 10-year average of 121, though the total number of birds, 8381, is close to the average of 8433. Effort on the count was average with 127.7 party-hours (average 128.2), as was the number of birds per party hour (65.6, average 65.9).

We had an absolutely incredible three species new to the count this year: Short-billed Dowitcher, Willow Flycatcher, and Dickcissel. I'm not sure when the last time that happened, but it was probably decades ago. The Chapel Hill count has been going on continuously since 1957, so it isn't too easy to add a new species! The Short-billed Dowitcher was spotted by Jan Hansen on the rocky bank near the dam at University Lake. Jan also scored a Dickcissel at Maple View Farm and got a nice photograph. Mark Kosiewski found the Willow Flycatcher on the Briar Chapel trail. It cooperated nicely for photos, but couldn't be identified for sure without hearing its call. Fortunately it responded to a tape of Willow by sounding off the "ritz-bew" call. Other goodies included Common Gallinule (Jill Froning, 4th count record), Semipalmated Plover (Hansen), Black-billed Cuckoo (Mark Goodwin, first since 1975), Hermit Thrush (Karyn Hede), Blackburnian Warbler (Brian Bockhahn), Palm Warbler (Kosiewski), both Canada and Wilson's Warblers at Mason Farm (Will Cook), and a count week King Rail (Ginger Travis, who couldn't get to Cub Creek on count day).

We set a good number of record highs this year: Spotted Sandpiper (97, average 16), N. Rough-winged Swallow (254, average 68), Cliff Swallow (62, average 7), Magnolia Warbler (14, average 2). This is the second record-setting year in a row for Rough-winged and Magnolia. Also in unusually high numbers: Solitary Sandpiper (20, average 10), E. Wood-Pewee (67, average 32), Acadian Flycatcher (81, average 59), Barn Swallow (179, average 74), Veery (11 is highest since 1978, average 3), Louisiana Waterthrush (31 is highest since 1976, average 14), Yellow Warbler (15, average 8), Chestnut-sided Warbler (6, average 1), and Black-throated Green Warbler (3, average 1)

The one big miss was Blue-headed Vireo, the first miss of this local breeding bird since 1985. Remarkably scarce this year: Eastern Kingbird (15 is lowest since 1974, average 26), Purple Martin (19, average 53), Wood Thrush (38, average 60), White-throated Sparrow (1 ties record low, average 17), and House Sparrow (13 ties record low set last year, average 47).

Team honors: Jan Hansen, covering both the University Lake and Dairyland Road areas, recorded a outstanding 97 species and 819 indivudual birds, the highest for both. Tom Driscoll got the highest individual count with 910.

Weather in brief: low 53F, high 65F; wind variable 0-5 mph; mostly cloudy, no rain.

Thanks to the 48 field counters and 3 feeder watchers for your help!

Detailed Results (PDF format)

Chapel Hill Bird Club