by Maurice Graves
As published in the Chapel Hill Bird Club Bulletin, Fall 1991
The Chapel Hill Bird Club (CHBC) has completed more than 50 years of nearly continuous existence. This feat, alone, should justify making an attempt to record its history. If one wishes to delve into prehistory (i.e., the period before 1940), one may visit the room in the Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill with the North Carolina Collection, and ask the friendly librarian for "Birds of Chapel Hill, N.C.," by Eugene Odum, Edmund Taylor, Coit Coker, and Arnold Breckenridge (1935, 29 pp.). One can also check the card index under "N.C. Birds." Then one can go to the N.C. Clipping File in bound volumes along the wall, thumbing to "Birds" to browse through 85 pages of fascinating news articles on this subject.
Early CHBC members have related that in 1940 the CHBC organized to the extent of having field trips, holding meetings on the UNC campus, and participating in the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Counts. In the cold season of 1946-47, the Club conducted a special project at University Lake, making observations of waterfowl on 61 days, and recording 1 common loon, 1 double-crested cormorant, 25 Canada geese, 3 great blue herons, 19 common mergansers, 12 hooded mergansers, 2 red-breasted mergansers, 5 pied-billed grebes, 75 black ducks, 35 mallards, 19 American wigeon, 8 pintails, 19 redheads, 134 ring-necked ducks, 6 canvasbacks, 30 greater scaup, 10 buffleheads, 4 ruddy ducks, 1 blue-winged teal, 9 gadwalls, 1 goldeneye, 6 wood ducks, and 19 coots. The numbers refer to the maximums seen on a particular day for each species during the 4-month survey period.
For about 15 years prior to the origin of the CHBC, Christmas Bird Count results for Chapel Hill had been sent to the National Audubon Society, but no appreciable increase in the number of participants occurred until the 1950s. In 1957, the CHBC also began a Spring Bird Count sequence, with the results being sent to the Carolina Bird Club. (Bird-count history will be discussed in the two concluding chapters of this history.)
The club can claim only "nearly continuous existence" because it was inactive for about a year, in 1971. Fortunately, Jim Pullman, Bob Teulings, and Liz Teulings Pullman organized and compiled bird counts during that year, thus maintaining continuous count records. Then the CHBC reorganized in January 1972 at the home of Robert and Mildred Sharpe, electing Wanda Calhoon as chairman, Barbara Roth as co-chairman, Louise Crumpacker as secretary/treasurer, and a program committee. Meetings and field trips resumed promptly, with members paying dues of $1, and the club flourished throughout the decade with commendable achievements in all phases of activity, including printing: The first Bulletin came off of the mimeograph in February 1972.
Full-day outings in that year were scheduled to Gaddy's Goose Refuge near Wadesboro, Hanging Rock State Park, Hammock Beach State Park near Atlantic Beach, and the home of Dr. Charles Blake near Hillsborough. There were three morning field trips, two to Mason Farm and one to Umstead State Park. Potlucks were enjoyed at Rosswood, the property of William and Mary Ruth Ross in Chatham County; Bolin Brook Farm north of Carrboro, the property of T.M. and Robin Andrews; and the McLean sisters' farm near Clayton.
The first meeting of the year featured the film, "A Place to Live," on the subject of N.C. ecology and conservation. This meeting was held at the public library, but the second and final meeting was held in room 128, Wilson Hall, on the UNC campus. The latter session established a permanent meeting place, and it also set a pattern of inviting a speaker to address the group at nearly all meetings. This time, the presentation was by Dr. Helmut Mueller on "A Study of Bird Migrations in Cedar Grove, Wis."
The CHBC had 90 names on the mailing list for the Bulletin in 1973, and the dues were raised to $2 in 1974. The members engaged in a flurry of activities early in 1973, most noteworthy of these being a March potluck supper at Ruth and Rudy Koster's. Much more than eating was done. A workshop was held to prepare for Fair Kedos, a citywide environmental project created by the Chapel Hill Recreation Department. The workshop led to the production of a slide show on Mason Farm for local groups, construction of bird houses and feeders as well as posters to display at the Intimate Bookshop, and three bird walks in April for the public. An outcome of the workshop was that a new member named Bill Wagner helped mount 15 bluebird boxes at Mason Farm.
Barbara Roth was club president both years, with Annie Leigh Broughton serving as VP, followed by Ruth McLean in 1974. The editors were Stanley Alford and Angelo Capparella, and the field chairmen were Robin Carter and Ted Nixon. Other potlucks were held at the McLean sisters' farm, the Andrews' farm, the Rosses' (in Chatham County), and the homes of the Sharpes and Mrs. Edgar Nash (in Chapel Hill). In 1973, Lois Garner and Wanda Calhoon were promoting a CHBC potluck and picnic cookbook project; Jim Pullman gave valuable advice in the February Bulletin on "where to go to find birds" locally; and this was the year that brought 15 changes in bird nomenclature.
Most field trips were scheduled on Sundays, with a break in July and August. Mason Farm and Lake Hogan Farm were favored destinations, but the Raleigh Lakes, Duke Forest, Duke University golf course, Gaddy's Goose Refuge (with 1,000 Canada geese), New Hope Creek, Raven Rock State Park, and the Eno River were visited. Longer field trips were taken to Lake Surf and Weymouth Woods (Oct. 1973, May 1974), Pea Island (with 96 avocets, Oct. 1973, Nov. 1974), Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina (March 1974), Santee Swamp, in South Carolina (June 1974), and Wrightsville Beach for a pelagic trip (September 1974), which appears to have been the only purely CHBC pelagic trip ever. The ocean yielded glimpses of the pomarine jaeger, bridled tern, and Audubon's, Cory's and greater shearwaters.
A substantial number of meetings with lectures were held at Wilson Hall on the UNC campus. These included Dr. Robert Teulings on "State Parks -- Problems and Priorities;" Dr. Alan Feduccia on "Origin and Evolution of Birds;" George and Mary Pyne on "Attracting Birds to Your Garden;" Dr. Haven Wiley on "Spring Observations of Prairie Grouse;" Dr. Barbara Roth on "Birds of the Seychelles Islands;" Wally Patterson, two programs using photo illustrations on the topic of "Nests of Local Breeding Birds;" Dr. Charles Blake on "Bird Names and Why They Change;" Dr. Teulings again, on "North Carolina Natural Areas;" David Inouye on "Some Costa Rican Creatures and Their Habitats;" and Stanley Alford on "Snakes of the Chapel Hill Area." Two films were also shown at another meeting: "Wildlife Refuge," and "Water Birds."
An Audubon Wildlife Film produced at a Florida cypress sanctuary launched a series of Audubon films brought to Chapel Hill during several subsequent years. The CHBC sponsored the series jointly with the UNC Department of Zoology, and club member Albert Walker served as chairman of the venture.
The basin being prepared for the future Jordan Lake provided a new kind of habitat to explore. This new terrain was but a few miles south of Chapel Hill in Chatham County, and it had large areas of marshy grass well stocked with food for short-eared owls, northern harriers, hawks and an occasional falcon. Also, there were small pools of water, especially the one along SR 1752 near SR 1008, with some shorebird surprises. A Triangle birders' hotline was established by Barbara Roth to provide better awareness of these sightings.
Thirteen CHBC trips were taken to the new habitat in 1975-76, plus numerous individual forays by club members. Mason Farm was still a favorite destination, with 21 scheduled hikes there during the two years. Other local field trip sites were Duke Forest (6), Lake Hogan Farm (8), north New Hope Creek (6), Raleigh Lakes (4), Umstead State Park (2), Duke Gardens (2), Pullman's Bridge/Stagecoach Bridge (2), Crystal Lake to the north of Durham (2), Eno River Park (2), and single visits to the UNC Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill Airport, Eastwood Lake, Kerr Lake, University Lake, and Carolina Friends School. Longer excursions were made to the Outer Banks (Nov. 1975, Sept. and Oct. 1976), Peaks of Otter, Va. (June 1975, July 1976), Roanoke Rapids (June 1975), Huntington Beach State Park/Brookgreen Gardens, S.C. (February 1975 and -- 105 species -- March 1976), Weymouth Woods (May 1975, April 1976), Gaddy's Goose Refuge (December 1975), Doughton Park (September 1976), and a Mississippi Kite trip to an area southeast of Charlotte (July 1976, with at least nine kites).
Duke Forest offered some excellent fall birding in 1976, with black-and-white, Tennessee, magnolia, Blackburnian, Nashville, bay-breasted, chestnut-sided, orange-crowned, and Cape May warblers being identified, plus a Philadelphia vireo and a yellow-bellied flycatcher. Jay and Lois Garner expressed concern about the forest in their letter to the Bulletin, "What Will be the Future of Duke Forest?" The Bulletin published a list of expected dates of arrival of fall migrants, Liz Teulings Pullman did the same for spring migrants, and Bill Wagner compiled a valuable guide to seasonal occurrences of all birds in the Chapel Hill area.
Meanwhile, bird-banding was taking place: Liz Teulings Pullman banded a Tennessee warbler and Charles Blake banded a black-throated blue warbler and a Swainson's thrush.
Some resignations occurred among club officers in 1976: Angelo Capparella, the field chairman, moved to Texas Tech for graduate study and was replaced by Bill Wagner; James Pullman retired as bird count compiler after six years of service, to be succeeded by Barbara Roth, then Bill Wagner; Annie Leigh Broughton resigned as VP; Kelsey Wagner relinquished the treasurer's position, a perennial job which he had held for three years. He was replaced by Margaret Wagner. Ruth McLean was chairman in 1975, followed by Wally Patterson the next year. In 1975 there was a Field Committee of eight with Barbara Roth in charge; this was pared down to a field trip director, namely Angelo Capparella, in 1976. New positions that originated in 1975 were corresponding secretary, membership chairman, publicity chairman, recording secretary, and Audubon Film Series chairman. Individual dues were increased to $3 (family, $5, student, $2).
During March of 1975, Barbara Roth led a Warbler Workshop on three Sunday evenings. In 1976, Jay and Eric Garner, Charles Blake and Bill Wagner presented an educational series called "Spring Migrants" on four successive Sunday evenings and Monday afternoons. The first session attracted an overflow crowd in Room 128, Wilson Hall. Other meetings during the two-year period had lectures from Margaret McVey on "Breeding Behavior of Barn Swallows;" Dr. Robert Teulings on "North Carolina State Parks: A Progress Report;" Michael Schultz on "Birds of the Galapagos Islands;" Dr. Barbara Roth on "Fall Migration in Europe." "Molt" was the title of Dr. Charles Blake's talk. James Keighton was the final lecturer, addressing the club on "Birds of Prey."
The social aspect was well-maintained with potlucks in 1975 being hosted by Hal and Debbie Frazier, Rudy and Ruth Koster, William and Mary Ruth Ross (Roger Tory Peterson, a former classmate of William's, was invited, but he was busy in Alaska) and the Andrews, where George and Mary Pyne presented slides of wild flowers, insects, and birds: "The Rewards of Bird Watching." Thirty-eight members turned out for a picnic at the Eno Park shelter in Durham. The next year there were potlucks at the homes of the Sharpes, the Rosses, and the Kosters, where Charles and Ella Newell acquainted all with "birds of Florida." Misses Jean, Ruth, and Cora McLean were gracious hostesses at a Christmas tea.
These two years saw a "youth movement" within the club. A quartet of boys provided the welcome energy that youth can summon so readily, and they combined this energy with much study, fieldwork and respect for the CHBC, as was seen in their many contributions as trip leaders and planners and as reporters to the Bulletin. Their names are Eric Garner, Steve Graves, Danny Kaplan and Jim McConnell. To cite just a few examples, Eric assisted in presenting the educational series of meetings entitled, "Spring Migrants," in the spring of 1976; Steve mounted and tended 48 bluebird boxes at Lake Hogan Farm, Chapel Hill Airport, and Mason Farm, and kept the nesting records for them. Jim reported frequently on his Beaverdam Lake observations, and contributed bird art to the front pages of the Bulletin. In Feb. 1976, Dan, Jim and Eric joined a teacher from their school and Robin Carter in Florida for a 10-day outing, garnering 172 species. Later the four boys went on to college and the CHBC had to carry on without this spark.
Club president during this period was Bill Wagner and the VP was Dr. I. R. Hagadorn, with George Pyne filling the new post of VP/Durham, in 1978. Wanda Calhoon served as editor, with the Wagners doing rough drafts, printing and mailing. A field committee was formed under Jim Coman, consisting of Monica Nees, Howard Ferguson, and the four youths mentioned above, with Barbara Roth as compiler and Robin Carter in charge of planning field trips in outlying regions
Beaverdam Lake, northeast of Durham, became a common field trip objective in 1978, because of its mud flats, and it was visited on five occasions. During the two years, other popular sites visited were Mason Farm (14), Lake Hogan Farm (8), Jordan Lake (7), Eno River Park (5), Duke Forest (5), Kerr Lake (4), and University Lake (4). Other destinations were the Carolina Friends School, North New Hope, Chapel Hill Airport, the UNC Botanical Garden, Umstead State Park and Pullman/Stagecoach Bridges. Longer trips were taken to Chincoteague, Va. (Jan. 1977, Jan. 1978), Huntington Beach State Park/Brookgreen Gardens, S.C. (March 1977, March 1978), Buena Vista, Va. (May 1977, May 1978), Fort Fisher/Orton Plantation (Apr. 1977), Outer Banks (Jan. 1977, Oct. 1977, Sept. 1978), and Kiptopeke, Va. (with one mile of banding nets, Sept. 1978).
A January 1977 trip to Lake Hogan Farm during temperatures of 8 to 10 degrees F. netted a respectable total of 40 species. A bald eagle at the Kerr Lake dam was seen by 12 CHBC members in Feb. 1977, and two bald eagles were sighted at Beaverdam Lake in 1978. Three of the Mason Farm trips were largely bird-banding displays by Liz Teulings Pullman, a licensed bander. The first New Hope Audubon Society Christmas Count took place on Jan. 1, 1978 (76 species), with Barbara Roth compiling.
Programs at monthly meetings featured Douglas Richards on "Towhee Song and Behavior;" Dr. Charles Blake on "Bird Sex and Plumage;" Meredith West on "Species Identification in the Brown-headed Cowbird;" Wally Patterson on "Bird Photography;" Dr. Ruth Grout on "Nature's Images in Many Lands;" John Horn on "Birds, Plants and Clear-Cutting in the Southern Appalachians;" Dr. Halbert Carmichael on "Birds on Coins;" Dr. Charles Blake on "Thoughts on Migration -- Field Observers versus Banders;" Dr. Abraham Schwartz on "Hawks;" Dr. Haven Wiley on "Birds of Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela;" and Patty Parker on "Black and Turkey Vultures." A series of spring study sessions for training in the identification of about 100 locally occurring species was organized and presented by Bill Wagner both years, using his own materials.
In May of 1977, an outbreak of chimney swifts, tree, barn and rough-winged swallows, and purple martins in great numbers was reported at Parkwood Lake. A black-throated gray warbler was unambiguously identified in Count Area 11 in September 1978. The king rail and Virginia rail were found locally. Mrs. Paul "Johnnie" Payne saw a pair of cardinals and a robin in her yard, anting! (Anting is preening with ant in bill).
Potlucks were held in 1977 at the Fraziers, the Pynes, the home of Bob and Nikki Wheeler in Parkwood, the Andrews, and the home of Simon and Susan Rose north of Chapel Hill near New Hope Camp. Charles Newell gave a slide talk at the Wheelers on Trinidad and Tobago birding; Toby Lorenzen and Darlene DeSantis gave a slide talk at the Roses on Orkney Islands Birds. Potlucks in 1978 were hosted by the Pynes at West Point on the Eno, Margaret Fowler and Beth Gray at Durham Park, and by the Wheelers and the Andrews at their homes. The Newells began a slide talk on their Austalian/New Zealand trip (457 species) at the Wheelers and concluded it at the Andrews' Bolin Brook Farm.
Quite a few club members had an opportunity to travel, affording the rest of the club a chance to enjoy their birding experiences as reported in the Bulletin. The October 1977 issue alone had news from Ecuador (143 new life species for Angelo Capparella), Oregon, Switzerland, California, New York State, Nag's Head, and a pelagic trip. Back at home, Christmas time in 1978 at Mapleview Farm in Count Area 1 netted 7 red-tailed, 3 red-shouldered, and 1 Cooper's hawk, 6 kestrels, a merlin, 45 black and turkey vultures, 80 water pipits, 3 snipe, and many meadowlarks and killdeer.
Beaverdam Lake, four miles south of Creedmoor on the eastern side of SR 50 (and now a part of Falls Lake), took on great importance for birders when it was drawn down in 1978, leaving large mudflats that provided good foraging and a fine mosquito population. The Chapel Hill Bird Club took 10 trips to the lake in the '70s, the Wagners often went there on weekdays, while Bob Hader of Raleigh, the McConnells, Garners and others visited frequently and made reports to the Bulletin. During this period, 80 species exclusive of the warbler, blackbird and sparrow families were observed, including such gems as red and Wilson's phalaropes, osprey, bald eagle, common loon, horned grebe, bank swallow, short-eared owl, buff-breasted, western and stilt sandpipers, willet, Wilson's, black-bellied and piping plovers, American avocet, peregrine falcon, merlin, Bonaparte's gull, and black, Caspian and Forster's terns. The only ducks on the New Hope Audubon Society Field Check List which were not reported were the common goldeneye and the oldsquaw.
Mason Farm and Lake Hogan Farm remained popular field trip destinations in 1979 and 1980, with 13 and 8 visits, respectively. Jordan Lake appeared often on the field trip schedule, with 11 times mentioned. Other trips were made to the Chapel Hill Airport (5), Raleigh Lakes (4), Kerr Lake (4), Duke Forest (3), Stagecoach/Pullman Bridges (2), and North New Hope, Durham County Wildlife Club, UNC Botanical Garden, and Carolina Friends School, once each. With so much lucrative birding close at hand, fewer long trips were made. The only one on record for the two years is a visit to Huntington Beach State Park, S.C., in March 1979, with "sparse birding" being reported.
Bill Buntin began the year of 1979 as president, giving way to VP Wally Patterson in September. Meanwhile, Philip Drew replaced John Spahr as VP for Durham. Ellen Walker retired as secretary after four years of service, and Bill Wagner was Bulletin editor with Wanda Calhoon as associate editor. Steve Graves was field director, assisted by Monica Nees. Bill Wagner was the compiler, assisted by Margaret Wagner.
On Sept. 5, 1979, Hurricane David stormed through central North Carolina, touching off a hunt for displaced pelagic birds. This search yielded a white-tailed tropicbird, a white pelican, a Mississippi kite, golden and black-bellied plovers, a ruddy turnstone, and Caspian and black terns, all at or near Jordan Lake. Other notable sightings in this area included the immature bald eagle just before the hurricane day, clay-colored and Lincoln's sparrows, and a black skimmer.
There also was a lark sparrow at the sewer beds in Durham, and a common loon, redheads, ruddy ducks, and hooded mergansers at Eastwood Lake in Chapel Hill.
An evening hike to Mason Farm allowed observers to see woodcock doing their mating dance at a distance of 10 feet. At Lake Wheeler, the following birds were seen on Nov. 18, 1981: common loon, 74 horned grebes, 40 pied-billed grebes, 10 American wigeon, 20 canvasbacks, 14 redhead, 35 ring-necked, 80 scaup, 15 bufflehead and 120 ruddy ducks, 3 red-breasted and 3 hooded mergansers, 140 coots, and many herring and ring-billed gulls.
At club meetings, Wally Patterson delighted the audience on two occasions with his photographic skills on "Birds in the Local Area;" Dr. Charles Blake spoke on "Ideas on Bird Navigation" and "Bird Feather Study." Other slide-talks were given by Dr. Barbara Grubb on "How Birds Survive at High Altitude where Man Cannot;" Maurice Graves on "Hurricanes;" Dr. Haven Wiley on "Bird Behavior;" Steve Graves on "Canoeing in the Ontario Lake Country;" and Dr. Nancy Lewis on "Alaskan Trip." One meeting featured a general discussion of Jordan Lake. Sadly, Dr. Charles Blake, one of CHBC's most distinguished and respected members, passed away on Dec. 6, 1981.
Eight potluck suppers and luncheons took place, with the Wheelers and Andrews being hosts at their residences both years, the Pynes hosting the group at the Dr. and Mrs. Holgar Nygard home in Durham, Margaret Fowler being hostess at West Point on the Eno, the McLean sisters inviting club members to their farm near Clayton, and Cora and Ruth McLean, with Florence Fowler and Pauline Wearn, being hostesses at Camp Clearwater. Most of these places had good birding possibilities, along with the food and fellowship.
Continuing with other happenings in 1979-80, which incidentally, appears to be a peak period of club activity: bulk mailings were initiated for the Bulletin in February, 1980; concern was expressed in the Bulletin over the effects of "acid rain" on ponds and lakes in the Triangle area, with a pH of 3.3 (extremely acidic) being reported at Lake Wheeler; Dr. Bob Lewis left for Fordham University and a new job, with 284 species observed by him in North Carolina in 1980; and finally Bill Wagner was elected president of the Carolina Bird Club, a great honor for him and for the CHBC.
Backyard birding is a joyous experience to countless people throughout the United States, including many who cannot go on hikes and long field trips. Within the Chapel Hill Bird Club (CHBC) count area, birders on count day know where feeders and bird houses are located to help augment their tallies, and they know where to buy large bags of bird food at minimal expense. There is a broad range of opportunity in backyard birding, and two especially interesting cases will be commented upon here.
The first case was Carol and Dan Hamilton's home on Franklin Street, near where most library patrons went in and out of the Chapel Hill Public Library, unaware of the startling spectacle just a few steps away. The feeding operation there was humongous, and the fine assortment of ravenous partakers must have been ample reward for the Hamiltons' efforts. A sharp-shinned hawk occasionally enlivened the day. Fortunately, Carol made reports to the Bulletin, describing the birds that came to the feeders.
The second case was Wiley and Hazel Spence's home on N.C. 751, well south of U.S. 54, where up to 300 gourds were kept available for purple martins to nest and raise colonies reaching 500 birds in number. In addition, a row of hummingbird feeders needed up to two quarts of nourishment per day for 30 to 50 hummers, typically, but more than 100 birds in some summers! To give an idea of the scale of the operation, a Bulletin from 1981 told about the cable and pulley system that enabled a tractor to lower and raise the gourds, a hundred at a time, for servicing. The Spences likewise have shared their experiences through the Bulletin, and they invited CHBC members to see their commercial bobwhite-rearing enterprise as well as their set-up for purple martins and hummingbirds.
During the two-year period, 1981-82, Jordan Lake became the most-favored field trip destination. There were 13 trips to that lake, 11 to Mason Farm, seven to Beaverdam Lake, five to Lake Hogan Farm, four to Duke Forest, three to Raleigh Lakes and to Kerr Lake, two to Stagecoach and Pullman bridges, and one each to the Chapel Hill Airport, University Lake, Eastwood Lake, Umstead State Park, Mapleview Farm, Weymouth Woods (with eight red-cockaded woodpeckers), the UNC campus, Cheek Road, and Raven Rock State Park.
The officers for 1981 were Wally Patterson, president; Phil Drew, vp/Durham; Steve Graves, vp/Chapel Hill and also field director; and Bill Wagner, editor and compiler. All of these officers continued through 1982 with no opposition. Potlucks were so numerous as to extend from summer into the transition seasons, and they were held at the Wheelers (2), Kosters (2), Andrews (2), Joe and Margaret Lockwood's home in Heritage Hills, the McLean sisters near Clayton, and the Eno Park shelter, hosted by Margaret Fowler and Beth Gray. The Wheelers had been to Jamaica, and they showed slides of that island's birds.
Although in college, the younger set managed to turn in some impressive field work: Angelo Capparella, with an LSU team in Bolivia, helped identify 307 species (221 lifers) in 5 1/2 weeks in the tropical forest; Jim McConnell updated old bird records of Durham County, listing 221 species; and David McConnell gained 135 lifers while teaching English in Kenya. On Sept. 28, 1981, the intersection of Turkey Farm Road and New Hope Creek was a hot spot for thrushes: 7 wood,9 Swainson's, 2 gray-cheeked, and 3 veery; all four commonly seen vireos were there on April 17, 1982. A common redpoll was seen by Carol Hamilton on a Sunday morning at her feeder, and the hot line soon brought a room full of guests, awaiting (in vain) its return. A power line constructed across count areas 22 and 24 gave good access to New Hope Creek. A broad-winged hawk snatched a salamander from the yard of Jean McLean. Dr. Olin S. Pettingill came to Carol Woods (always good habitat for CHBC members) from Cornell U. to show a penguin film shot at the Falkland Islands. Emma Fernandez coordinated a "hawk watch" on Feb. 14, 1982. At Jordan Lake on Nov. 29, 1982, observers had a field day, finding more than 280 common loons, 35 horned grebes, and 10 common goldeneyes. Ross Jervis received permits to rehabilitate injured wildlife and avian species. Least Bittern and pied-billed grebe nests were found at Falls Lake. An adult bald eagle was observed within the CHBC count area at Jordan Lake. New member Anson Cooke studied duck populations there.
The Sunday afternoon meetings featured Dr. Richard Beckman on "Bird Photography and other Photographic Techniques;" Dr. George Beckerman on "Galapagos Islands, Australia, and New Guinea;" Adelaide Walters on "Egypt;" Ken Horner on "Egyptian Birding;" Steve Graves on "Rare Winter Bird Sightings in the Carolinas;" Dr. Emma Fernandez on "Raptors" and on "Hawk Mountain Film Release of Golden Eagle;" Bernd Soltmann on "Florida Everglades;" Dr. Carl Buchheister, former president of the National Audubon Society, on "Sea Birds of Islands off Maine Coast;" and Maurice Graves on "Hurricanes."
The necrology was long: Dr. Ruth McLean, former president and editor of the CHBC; Dr. Robert Sharpe, who helped host several potlucks; Adelaide Walters, a former officer who lectured on "Egypt" in 1981; Dr. Irvine Hagadorn, former CHBC vice president; Kelsey Wager, former treasurer; and Dr. T. M. Andrews, frequent host of potlucks at his farm, Bolin Brook.
Mason Farm, for many years a CHBC haven, began as a plantation under private ownership in 1854. Fifty years later, it was bequeathed to the University of North Carolina, and in the late 1940s, Finley Golf Course was built on farm property. The Mason Farm Biological Reserve was then created as a part of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, with the objectives of research, teaching and public programs in natural history. The Friends of Mason Farm was also formed to foster these programs, plus conservation. The average birder may not realize that Mason Farm can be broken down into components: Willow Oak Swamp, Lone Field, Siler's Bog, Laurel Hill, Yancey Brook; he or she probably knows Morgan Creek, which is sometimes too deep to cross. John K. Terres's book about the farm, "From Laurel Hill to Siler's Bog," was published in 1969. He based the book on his experiences at the farm, which involved 10,000 hours of observation and walking 5,000 miles.
Wally Patterson continued as club president in 1983 and 1984, and Anson Cooke was VP for Durham both years. However, there were changes in the other positions: Sue Campbell was vp/Chapel Hill, succeeded by Charles Lyon the second year; Ruth Fink completed three years as secretary, with Eva McKenna taking over this post in 1983; Steve Graves resigned as field director the same year, and Bill Wagner took over the planning of field trips and continued to edit the Bulletin and compile the bird counts.
Jordan Lake surged ahead as number one among field trip destinations, with 27 visits by the club in 19832-84. Falls Lake (10), Mason Farm (9), and Lake Hogan Farm (7) were other favorites. Fewer visits were made to Wheeler Lake (2), Stagecoach Bridge (3), and Weymouth Woods and Kerr Lake (one each). A CHBC trip to the Outer Banks took place in December 1984.
In addition to the annual business meeting in November 1983, the following speakers presented programs: Wally Patterson on "Birds of the World," a collection of slides taken by him at the N.C. Zoological Garden Aviary, during three trips there; Ross Jervis on "Birders and Hunters;" Roger Foy on "Atlasing Bird Distribution;" Dr. Joe Bailey on "Birds -- Why and How," which explored bird anatomy, birds' ability to see, feathering, and fossil studies; Dr. Haven Wiley on "Mason Farm and UNC Botanical Gardens;" Dr. Meredith West on "Cowbirds;" Dr. Tony Shrimpton on "Birding From Mexican Border to Canada;" and Ross Jervis again on "Field Marks of Immature Bald Eagles Compared to Hawks and Ospreys." A new study session on "Birds in Breeding Plumage with Taped Songs of Spring" was prepared and led by Wally Patterson and Bill Wagner in February 1984.
The 1983 summer potlucks were hosted by the Wheelers, the Andrews, and the Kosters, where Trudie London spoke on birding in Iceland and Switzerland. The next year, the Andrews and Kosters repeated, and a potluck was held at Northgate Park in Durham with Wilma Stuart and Grace Walters being hostesses.
Following the lecture on atlasing of breeding bird populations given by Roger Foy, one or two individual efforts were begun in the local area, but the club did not join this program, collectively. Bill Wagner was on Channel 14 TV on May 18, 1983 with Carl Buchheister, discussing the fine CHBC spring count results (144 species) and chatting about Bill's early birding experiences and the club's early history. Bill Leuchtenburg obtained 36 lifers in two days around Tucson, Ariz. Sue Campbell canoed down New Hope Creek to the N.C. 751 bridge, netting three bald eagles and two ospreys.
A July 1983 field trip to count area 24 was quite eventful: The group encountered a female wild turkey and a barn owl. Bald-eagle sightings increased with a count of five in August 1983, and Melinda Welton initiated an ongoing bald eagle census for Jordan Lake and Falls Lake the next year. Northern and Wilson's phalaropes, 10 tundra swans, and white-winged scoters were also seen at Jordan Lake; and Baird's sandpipers and brant geese were identified at that lake's Morgan Creek component. Not to be outdone, Falls Lake produced a black scoter, black-crowned night heron, common moorhen, and a pectoral sandpiper in November 1984. A new CHBC count circle map was distributed so as to be in accordance with the change in land/water distribution caused by Jordan Lake. A revised seasonal check list for birds in the CHBC count circle was issued by Bill Wagner in January 1984.
Jim Coman's sensational reporting from his farm near the Virginia border continued with "at least 5,000 robins," eight turkeys, and three woodcock. A cerulean warbler visited Johnnie Payne's feeder near Duke Forest. Ospreys were determined to be nesting at Jordan Lake. At the Wagners' feeder and bird bath on Oct. 8, 1984, came a flock of 8 or 10 Tennessee warblers; Cape May, blackburnian, blackpoll, yellow-throated, and black-throated green warblers; yellow-bellied sapsucker; and rose-breasted grosbeak. Another guest was a probable Sutton's warbler (hybrid between northern parula and yellow-throated warblers). Bill Wagner contributed seven pages of condensed records of local birds to the Eagle Rock Publishing Co. for a new book entitled "Bird Finding in the Carolinas." In 1984, a general decrease was noted in duck populations in the southeast, including Jordan Lake and Falls Lake, and this was sadly true of other fall migratory species in that year. The March 1984 Bulletin touted "hog meal mixed with suet" as an ideal food for a wide array of winter birds. As marketed by the Efland Milling Co. (west of Hillsborough), "hog meal" is simply cracked corn; it sold for $9.25/100 lb.
Jordan Lake has a normal water level of 216.0 feet. When drought conditions occur, as they did so often in the 1980s, the water level drops, exposing acres of mud flats, shorelines, and islets that offer gourmet dining for a host of shorebirds and waders. After the lake was filled, it became the destination of a majority of Chapel Hill Bird Club (CHBC) field trips.
A map of the lake reveals that its Morgan Creek and New Hope Creek portions extend northward to the Durham County line, approximately. Besides the vantage points offered by bridges on U.S. 64, N.C. 751 and SR 1008, one can reach the lakeshore via various foot trails leading from these highways as well as SR 1715 (Big Woods Road) and SR 1178, which leads to the "Eagle Roost," a semi-cleared area along the road.
During 1985 and 1986, other field trip objectives were Falls Lake (9), Mason Farm (8), Stagecoach Bridge (2), and Lake Hogan Farm. Bill Wagner scheduled and led field trips, assisted by Charley Lyon. Wally Patterson served his sixth consecutive year as president in 1985, with Anson Cooke and Joel Rose as vice presidents. The next year, Anson was president and Wally was VP. Bill Wagner was the editor and compiler both years, with Margaret Wagner assisting him.
Another white-tailed tropicbird was seen at Jordan Lake after Hurricane Bob passed near the coast on July 25, 1985. A black tern was also seen there early in that year, and 60 red-breasted mergansers and 150 ring-necked ducks were reported in March. At Morgan Creek that summer, young ospreys were seen on the nest, and one hike yielded 13 immature bald eagles (with 1 adult), two tricolored herons, a little blue heron, more than 40 great blue herons, two great egrets, a green-backed heron, a pectoral sandpiper, and eight black ducks. Margaret Castagno of Durham was very involved in bird rehabilitation at this time, with 23 cases at once in the summer of 1985, including a red-shouldered hawk, great-horned owl, wood duck, and kestrel. Her work was taken over by Edith Tatum in September 1986.
A flow of birders to Falls Lake was triggered by Ricky Davis' sighting of a ruff, a casual migrant. A scissor-tailed flycatcher was seen near Hillsborough, and a red crossbill came to Carol Hamilton's feeder on June 12, 1986. Anson Cooke made computer labels for mailing the Bulletin. Annie Leigh Broughton gave a talk on Radio WCHL about birds and bird-feeding. Larry Swenberg of Ducks Unlimited placed some wood duck boxes at Morgan Creek. The Pat Hobsons' friend, Phoebe Snetsinger, attained her 5000th lifer, a Philippine bullfinch, at Luzon. Dan Kaplan and Eric Garner logged about 150 species in Arizona in August, 1986, and in that year, a flock of ruddy turnstones in all stages of molt and a black-bellied plover were found on Cheek Road. Another black tern was observed in August at New Hope Creek, then eight more of the same species were seen at Meadowview Pond. Ten red-headed woodpeckers were noted in Battle Park on the UNC campus, and the first hermit thrush reported in the fall of 1986 flew into a window, but survived, at Connie Margolin's home. On Oct. 17, more than 100 killdeer and about 60 dunlin were seen on Jordan Lake, near the Ball Park, along with a northern phalarope doing its odd circling motion.
At CHBC meetings, Dr. Anson Cooke presented a program on "South African Birds, Animals and Flowers," in two sessions; Dr. Elmer Larsen spoke on "Birds and Animals of Prehistoric Galapagos Islands;" Dr. Thomas Krakauer on "Alaska;" Dr. Larry Swenberg on "Ducks Unlimited;" Dr. Sue Campbell on "Loons;" Wally Patterson on "Closeup Bird Photography," a slide show; Ross Jervis on "Ducks and Early-Nesting Birds;" Dr. Haven Wiley on "Understanding of Bird Song and Some Experiments in the Field;" Dr. Monica Nees on "Islands of the Great Lakes;" and Dr. Nees, with Wally Patterson and Dr. Cooke, on "Birds of Florida."
The initial summertime potluck of 1985 was held at the Andrews farm, with a first-time video-tape showing for the club by Mike Godfrey on shorebirds. Subsequently, the Kosters hosted a potluck at their home, and Wilma Stuart, Margaret Fowler, and Grace Walters greeted CHBC members at a picnic in Northgate Park in Durham. The next year, potlucks were hosted by the Andrews again, by the Cookes, who showed slides of South African birds and animals, and the Pynes at Northgate Park. Nicki Wheeler, a former potluck hostess, moved to Washington State, but like many departees, she continued to contribute to the Bulletin. A long article in the News and Observer featured the CHBC. Regrettably, the club lost two boosters through death in 1986: Carl Buchheister in July and Wilma Stuart in November.
The club is certainly indebted to Bill and Margaret Wagner for their many years of faithful leadership, serving the membership. The Wagners became club members in 1973 and through 1988 they compiled an extraordinary record of selfless devotion to the organization. Bill was active in the field and at meetings, in organizing, participating in and compiling bird counts, in publicizing club affairs, in obtaining speakers for meetings, in editing the Bulletin, in educating members at the Questar and through visual aids (as in the warbler workshops), and in acting as a clearinghouse for the flow of incoming reports from CHBC members and friends, bird banders, other bird clubs and various publications.
Margaret was also a great birder but more importantly was the gregarious welcoming committee of one who injected a feeling of camaraderie at meetings and hikes. She also served as treasurer from 1975 to 1988. She took voluminous notes as secretary for about 6 years, was associate editor during Bill's tenure of 10 years or more as editor, and she was an assistant compiler for a similar period.
During 1987 and 1988, Anson Cooke continued to be president, with Wally Patterson and Peggy Smith the vice presidents, the latter being succeeded by Dick Rettig in 1988. Eva McKenna completed five years as secretary in 1987, to be followed by Maurice Graves; Eva was claimed by death in September, 1988. Bill Wagner was editor and compiler in 1987 and 1988, and he found a capable replacement in Doug Shadwick as field director in 1988. By the end of that year, Joe Covington had taken over the Bulletin editorship, with all of the supplementary tasks -- copying, posting, mailing, etc. -- that the position entailed.
The 1987 Sunday afternoon meetings began with a travelogue on "The Far East" presented by Drs. George and Betty Beckerma; then Dr. Elmer Larsen on "Pribilof Islands;" Wally Patterson's first of a total of four skillful photographic displays on "Birds of the Carolinas and the N.C. Zoological Gardens' Aviary;" Dr. Haven Wiley on "Breeding Census at Mason Farm, the Carolinas, West Virginia and Other Places;" Maurice Graves on "Birds in Hurricanes;" Dr. Alan Reckhow on "The Bellbird, Scarlet Ibis and the Oilbirds of Trinidad and Tobago;" Dr. Anson Cooke on "Birds, Plants and Animals of the Hawaiian Islands," and again, on "Birds and Flowers of the Kew Gardens;" Dr. Dick Rettig on "The Galapagos Islands;" Dr. Elmer Larsen again on "Circumnavigating Antarctica;" and Dr. Phil DuMont and Jean DuMont on "Birds of Australia."
More than 30 field trips were taken to Jordan Lake in the two years, not including the bald eagle surveys in which the club participated each month, usually on the first Saturday. Other destinations were Falls Lake (6), Mason Farm (3), Stagecoach and Pullman's Bridges (3), and RTP, University Lake, Chapel Hill Airport, Raleigh Lakes, and Reedy Creek (now Umstead) State Park. Only one long trip was taken; that to the Outer Banks in December 1988. Participants saw the harlequin duck, purple sandpiper, gannets and black-crowned night herons in good numbers, and a white pelican. Many individual forays and family excursions were made, such as the ones by Bill Leuchtenburg to the Bahamas and Alaska; the Cookes on the SC coast (twice); Don Wright at Charleston, S.C.; the Rettigs in Georgia coastal waters and at Beaufort; the Reckhows and the Hobsons in Trinidad and Tobago; the Garners in Michigan; the DuMonts in Australia; the Newells in Venezuela; Bob Chase in Texas, south of Houston; the Cookes and Wagners at the Outer Banks; Doug Shadwick at the Aransas NWR; Sue Campbell in Iowa, Wisconsin and at Point Pelee; the Wagners along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia; the Pippens in Davis, Ca.; Elaine Eckel in Florida; Anson Cooke at Grand Falls, N.D., and the Chases in Florida and Georgia. Locally some of the best sightings were the pomarine jaeger at Jordan Lake (September 1987); golden eagle at Morgan Creek (November 1987); Lapland longspur at Falls Lake, with a flock of water pipits (November 1987); upland sandpiper at RTP; stilt sandpiper seen by many at Jordan Lake, along with willets, Wilson's plover, ruddy turnstone, marbled godwit, Baird's and least sandpipers, black tern, tricolored heron, and glossy and white ibises, all in the summer of 1988. Tropical depressions moving up the coast were thought responsible for some of these birds, as well as the great blue heron in white phase, which stayed for weeks at Morgan Creek. To top things off, a whimbrel and a Hudsonian godwit were seen at Jordan Lake in October, 1988, plus five sora and a laughing gull. Monica Nees tipped off the CHBC about nesting great-horned owls at the Research Triangle Institute's Hill Building; many birders saw the owl pair and their two fledglings. Margaret Wagner had a pileated woodpecker in her yard in February 1987 along with hairy, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers. Three osprey nests were located on Morgan Creek, and the December 1988 eagle count had a fine total of 23 birds, with five adults.
Farther afield, Jim Coman moved to a farm near Sparta, N.C., and watched a probable hawk owl perform; there were also ravens. Joe Covington registered 45 species at Central Park in Manhattan. The Cookes saw white ibises and snowy egrets perched in conifers, a spectacular scene on the South Carolina coast. In January 1987, Sue Campbell watched 250 bald eagles at Keokuk, Iowa, on an extremely cold day. The Wagners estimated 3,000 red-breasted mergansers on the North Carolina coast in March 1988. In the same month, Jim Coman estimated 5,000 robins at Sparta, and was especially pleased with the sighting of a pink-sided (Oregon) junco.
With federal funding, nine duck ponds were planned around Jordan Lake for the breeding of mallards, wood ducks, and black ducks, as well as for flood control. Joe Jones, a longtime CHBC member, continued to contribute to the Bulletin after moving to Virginia from Georgia. Bald eagles at the roosting area near Jordan Lake had a surge in numbers in May 1987, reaching 40 individuals shortly after spring count day; hundreds of bobolinks were in Count Area 1 at that time. Cliff swallows were nesting at the NC 751 bridge, and CHBC members visited Wiley Spence's fascinating bird-feeding and bird-rearing operation on June 6, 1987; there were about 400 purple martins, 75 hummingbirds, and 225 bobwhite chicks. A page in the August 1987 Bulletin was devoted to fall warbler identification and where to look for the migrants. Dick and Dot Rettig instructed on birds, with field trips included, to a group at Duke University's Institute of Learning in Retirement (DILR).
The social set enjoyed potlucks at the Andrews farm in both 1987 and 1988. The Cookes also invited the CHBC both years, with Anson showing slides of a trip to the South Carolina coast the first year and of British waterfowl at the Kew Gardens of London the second year. Rudy Koster hosted a potluck in 1987, with Wally Patterson showing slides of snakes and animals. Finally Tom and Bertha Jones, Grace Walters, and Mary Haddon coordinated a picnic at Northgate Park in Durham in the summer of 1988. Part X: 1989-1990
The constitution of the Chapel Hill Bird Club (CHBC), as amended by vote in January 1989, has seven articles and three pages of by-laws. The changes put in force a due date of January 1 for club dues, established two vice-presidents, one for the Chapel Hill area and one for Durham, and also originated the positions of potluck supper chairman and publicity chairman, and spelled out the duties of all offices more precisely. Conformance with federal tax laws was also reflected by the revised document.
In 1989, there were changes in the slate of officers. Dr. Rudolf Koster took on the duties of president (also handling the publicity for the meetings), Peggy Franklin became treasurer (also becoming involved in potlucks), and Joseph Covington edited the Bulletin; Len Pardue, a journalist, succeeded him in 1990. Wally Patterson concluded a long span of service as a club officer by becoming vice president, Chapel Hill, in 1989; Maurice Graves replaced him in 1990. Anson Cooke was the VP for Durham, and Doug Shadwick continued as field director. Harriet Sato became secretary in 1990, replacing Maurice Graves. The task of organizing bird counts was given to a committee in 1990: Peggy Franklin, Maury Graves and Doug Shadwick to do the calling and Joe Covington making the final assignments. Anson Cooke became compiler in that year.
Some variety was introduced into the field trip schedule during 1989 and 1990, but Jordan Lake was still good for 20 hikes and car trips to bridges. Additional trips were made to Mason Farm (3), Falls Lake (3), Cane Creek Reservoir (3), Lake Hogan Farm (2), Weymouth Woods (2), Reedy Creek State Park (2), the N.C. 54 swamp (2), Raleigh Lakes (2), the Carolina Raptor Center near Gastonia, Big Woods Road, and Lake Crabtree. Longer trips were made to the Outer Banks (Feb. and Nov. 1989, and Feb. and Nov. 1990), Carteret County, N.C., (April 1989), and the Virginia mountains at Glasgow (May 1989, May 1990), and Delmarva Peninsula (May 1990). Hurricane Hugo interfered with a planned field trip to Bulls Island, S.C., forcing a cancellation.
The meetings started off with a January 1989 bird-slide show, with contributions from Wally Patterson, Anson Cooke, and Steve Graves. Subsequent meetings during the two years featured Steve Sparrow on "Exotics, a Flight of Fancy," describing his exotic bird enterprise outside of Carrboro; Dr. Dick Retting on the "Galapagos Islands;" Dr. Harry LeGrand, Jr., on "Natural Areas Around the Triangle Area;" Dr. Anson Cooke on "Gannets and other Marine Birds of the Maritime Provinces;" and later, "Ornithological Collections at the Gladys Porter Zoo, Brownsville, Texas;" Dr. Jeffrey Walters on "The Social Behavior and Conservation of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker;" Derb Carter on "Why Birders are and should be Environmentalists;" Dr. Stephen Hall on "Butterfly Watching in the Triangle Area;" Renee Godard on "Hooded Warblers and Other Friends at Mason Farm;" Michael Green on "Birds of the Prairie and their Songs;" and David Gulick on "How Cherokee Indians Appreciated Birds." Dr. Michael Tove concluded the series with a "Birding Skills Workshop."
The three potlucks during the two years were held at the home of Rudy Koster in 1989, the Andrews' farm in 1989, and the home of Peggy Franklin and Jim Craig in 1990. Birding trips by several club members led to interesting reports in the Bulletin. To cite just a few of these, one may start with the pelagic trip taken by Joseph Covington and Jeff Pippin in August 1989, when they positively identified a band-rumped storm-petrel.
Then there were accounts of Peggy Franklin and husband Jim Craig on a Christmas trip, and the next year on a six-week trip to nearly all of the western states, adding 72 species to Peggy's life list and a whopping 245 to Jim's.
The Rettigs had a successful trip to Scotland. The Pippens reported on a weekend trip to the Outer Banks in November 1989 which produced some 5,000 American wigeon, a Ross' goose, and a peregrine falcon. Jim Coman conducted a tour for CHBC on April 1, 1990, at his Stoney Knob farm near Piney Creek in Alleghany County; some of the group sighted their first wild turkeys when a flock of 16 came across the highway for a landing right next to the caravan. More turkey were on hand at the farm, ruffed grouse were heard drumming, two common ravens were seen, and there was almost constant action throughout the morning.
Also in 1990, the Delmarva CHBC trip yielded 107 species, with strong shorebird counts; the Pardues sighted 190 species on a Nature Conservancy tour in Oregon; Doug Shadwick visited two National Wildlife refuges in Montana and found many eastern birds ranging all the way to the Rockies; CHBC members took park in the hawkwatch at Mahogany Rock, N.C., on the Blue Ridge Parkway on Sept. 22-23, 1990; more than 600 hawks were seen the first day, mostly broad-wingeds. Joe Covington was at Hatteras Island at the right time (in September 1990) to see piping plovers and royal, Caspian, Sandwich, and common terns; he also went to Plum Island and other coastal areas in Massachusetts, as well as San Francisco, England, France, and Spain, often effectively combining birding with business. The Chases reported on an eventful trip to the Aransas NWR and took Captain Ted's Whooping Crane Tour. Finally, the CHBC trip to the Outer Banks (Nov. 1990) netted 90 species, including a cattle egret near Lake Mattamuskeet, and the trip set club records for waiting for ferry boats while coping with a gap in the bridge at Oregon Inlet.
Closer to home, CHBC birders found a snow goose at Lake Hogan Farm, a saw-whet owl at Hillsborough, a glaucous gull at Crosswinds Marina (Jordan Lake), white-crowned sparrows at Cane Creek Reservoir, 30 or 40 hooded mergansers at Lake Crabtree, and an itinerant surf scoter at New Hope Creek. Seeing a Harris' hawk set local birders atwitter early in 1989; the bird took up residence at the northern edge of Carrboro for several days before its owner recaptured it.
Anson Cooke headed a project that provided a field checklist for birds of the Chapel Hill area, and it was placed on sale at 10 for $1. Sterling Brackett's bird sculptures were displayed at the Totten Center, UNC Botannical Garden, in October and November 1989. Bald eagle counts during the summer of 1990 dropped into the teens, but definite signs of attempts to nest at two locations between Morgan and New Hope creeks engendered hope for egg-laying by these magnificent creatures.
The National Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count series began in 1900 at 25 locations, mostly in northeastern cities. Now there are more than 1,500 locations, and since 1924, Chapel Hill has been one of the reporting sites, with an ininterrupted sequence of reports since 1957. Of course the Chapel Hill Bird Club does not have the same potential for species counts in the low 200s as do some sites in California and Texas, but the CHBC winter count totals have threatened to break the 100-level (for example, 95 species in 1984 and 98 species in 1983).
The first Chapel Hill Christmas Count in 1924 had two pioneering participants walking for seven hours with good weather and finding 27 species. The count circle was centered at 35° 55'N, 79° 04'W, that is, the corner of Columbia and Franklin Streets. From 1929 to 1935, the Chapel Hill Ornithological Club did that count, with up to four members participating; oddly, in 1931, two counts were made and reported during the count period. Annual counts for Chapel Hill then took place without interruption until 1944, when the CHBC was first mentioned as the sponsoring organization. When the CHBC took over the responsibility for the Christmas counts, participants began to break up into parties and the count stabilized in the 60-75 species range it had once reached in 1933. No further increase occurred until 1970, when the 80-level was attained for the first time. This stepwise change can be credited to goodly numbers of hawks and ducks and to observations of several uncommon species such as blue grosbeak, vesper sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, turkey, horned lark, and red crossbill. Even though these species were seldom seen again on the count, a further increase in the species count to the 90-level occurred in 1980. This change was evidently due to the effect of the Joerdan Lake bed and to a rise in the number of participants to the 60s-level. A subsequent reduction in species count in the late 1980s was probably the result of diminished participation.
Consolidation of Christmas Bird Count data from the period 1924-1980, by Steve Graves, using early records at the NCSU General Library, and extended to 1990, has facilitated the extraction of "spectaculars" such as these:
common loon 1947, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1990
red-throated loon 1942
green-backed heron 1966, 1982, 1985
black-crowned night heron 1976
tundra swan 1961
blue-winged teal 1949
greater scaup 1949, 1953, 1978
common goldeneye 1962, 1970, 1982, 1989
osprey 1934, 1984
great egret 1984, 1987
common moorhen 1971, 1972, 1973
spotted sandpiper 1961
least sandpiper 1984
pectoral sandpiper 1984
Caspian tern 1984, 1985
peregrine falcon 1977
ring-necked pheasant 1936, 1938
king rail 1931, 1934
common barn owl 1951, 1983
northern saw-whet owl 1984
broad-winged hawk 1967, 1973
rough-legged hawk 1978, 1979
Swainson's thrush 1955
orchard oriole 1957
Brewer's blackbird 1971, 1977, 1982
blue grosbeak 1970, 1979
common redpoll 1959, 1964, 1981, 1982, 1983
red crossbill 1970, 1973, 1974
Henslow's sparrow 1967
Bachman's sparrow 1948
tree sparrow 1968, 1974, 1977
Lincoln's sparrow 1974
black-capped chickadee 1953
orange-crowned warbler 1946
Cape May warbler 1977
black-throated blue warbler 1960
yellow-throated warbler 1976, 1977, 1978
palm warbler 1963, 1970, 1974, 1984
yellow-breasted chat 1961, 1970
western tanager 1987
Bald eagles became a fixture in 1982. The horned lark observed in 1990 was the first since 1978, and northern orioles were seen in considerable numbers prior to 1978; subsequently only half a dozen in all have been reported. The 1979 Christmas Count, with a record 71 participants, broke 21 records of numbers within species and it had second highest in another 17 species. Some of the outstanding results were for pied-billed grebe (48), red-tailed hawk (51), common snipe (32), screech owl (13), belted kingfisher (25), hairy woodpecker (27), blue jay (653), eastern kingbird (356), northern cardinal (640), and house finch (148).
Although a further discussion of numbers of birds would be cumbersome, one cannot overlook the anomaly of 569,000 birds in the 1975 Christmas Count, compared to typical numbers below 15,000. Much of the spike was due to a "blackbird species" total of 554,500.
The maximum to date of 98 species occurred in 1983, with a starting temperature of 5_F, so cold weather, in itself, has not been a limitation. As was pointed out in the March 1990 Bulletin, the decline in the CHBC count in the 1980s was more likely connected to a downtrend in the number of birders. This downtrend may have been reversed in 1990, with nine more counters than the previous year out to enjoy the warmest count day that can be recalled. Of a somber certainty, the relentless increase in residential area within the count circle will eventually affect count results, if it hasn't already done so.
With other Christmas Count circles within driving range, a number of CHBC members have participated in additional counts. Some went to the Durham count or the New Hope Audubon count every year. A few did the Raleigh count, and still others headed to the coast. One of the more versatile CHBC enthusiasts was Robin Carter, who in 1977-1978 took part in six Christmas counts in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
By Spring Bird Count day, the foliage becomes heavy enough to obscure most birds, and the ear then takes precedence over the eye. The high-pitched, buzzy warblers, the blue-gray gnatcatcher, and the grasshopper sparrow constitute a valid test of a birder's auditory response in the upper registers, and a pair of sharp ears is an asset to any team of counters.
The Spring Bird Count results were published until recent years in the Carolina Bird Club's Chat. CHBC's first Spring Count took place in 1946, when 11 observers saw a creditable 106 species, including a Henslow's sparrow and a double-crested cormorant. A second effort was made in 1952, but regular annual spring counts did not begin until 1957. The species count was typically 40-50 species higher than the Christmas Bird Count, with the median value in the 1950s and '60s being 110 versus 70, then 135 versus 90 in the heydays of 1975-1985. Total numbers of birds in spring counts hovered around 10,000 in the '80s, still less than most Christmas Count totals, but more than double the total numbers of the '60s. The latter increase is probably explained by a surge in total team (or party) hours. Just before Jim Pullman took over as compiler in 1969, the job was handled by Matt and Sue Thompson; previously, it was divided among five or more CHBC members.
Upon going through the compiler sheets and Bulletin reports, one can appreciate the effort put in by four to eight dozen birders and the compiler each spring. One is also struck by the good fortune enjoyed by CHBC in regard to the weather on count day; hardly any interference has been sustained since 1976, although there was some complaining in the June 1981 Bulletin about "overcast, cool" conditions and a struggle to find 126 species, with 64 observers in the field.
During the 34 years of the record with which we are dealing, the high species counts in the spring were in 1983 and 1984, with 144 and 142 species, respectively. These years coincide with the top two years for the Christmas counts, which totaled 98 and 95 species, respectively. Just scanning the sequence of species counts, I found a decrease of perhaps 10 percent in the late 1980s. This may be caused by loss of habitat here and in the tropical wintering regions, but the decrease in counters during the '80s is certainly a matter of concern.
Some of the more recent surprises dating back to 1976 include:
common loon 1978
horned grebe 1985
American bittern 1976, 1980
black-crowned night heron 1980, 1983
yellow-crowned night heron 1979, 1980, 1984
great egret 1980
cattle egret 1979
white ibis 1984
blue-winged teal 1984
American wigeon 1978
rough-legged hawk 1984
semipalmated plover 1976
greater yellowlegs 1981
lesser yellowlegs 1976, 1977
least sandpiper 1977
semipalmated sandpiper 1983
pectoral sandpiper 1976, 1989
Forster's tern 1978
olive-sided flycatcher 1978
yellow-bellied flycatcher 1990
bank swallow 1988
fish crow 1981, 1986, 1988
sedge wren 1989
marsh wren 1978
gray-cheeked thrush 1978
Philadelphia vireo 1976
warbling vireo 1976, 1978
Canada warbler 1979
cerulean warbler 1986, 1987
Nashville warbler 1984
Swainson's warbler 1987
rusty blackbird 1987
red crossbill 1976
In 1978, 27 warbler species and a profusion of bobolinks were reported; in 1979, 31 whip-poor-wills were heard; in 1982, there were 9 rose-breasted grosbeaks and 8 sparrow species; in 1983, 5 common loons and 9 sparrow species; in 1984, 4 owl species; and in 1986, there were 8 ospreys.
In more remote times, that is, from 1946 to 1975, the more unusual Spring Count sightings include these birds: D-C cormorant (1946, 1952), yellow-crowned night heron (1961), pintail (1972), northern shoveler (1966, 1967), semi-palmated plover (1964, 1966), greater yellowlegs (1965), sora (1970), chuck-will's-widow (1965), merlin (1957, 1964), peregrine falcon (1965), olive-sided flycatcher (1964), yellow-bellied flycatcher (1963), horned lark (1952), ruffed grouse (1958, 1961), Bewick's wren (1967), winter wren (1961, 1971), marsh wren (1957), cerulean warbler (1971), Nashville warbler (1975), orange-crowned warbler (1962), Wilson's warbler (1974), fox sparrow (1971), and Henslow's sparrow (1946).
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The monthly Bulletin of the Chapel Hill Bird Club (CHBC), which began publication in 1972, is the main source of information for this historical account, and thanks are due Barbara Roth for supplying early issues of the Bulletin from the period, 1972-1975. The assistance given by Jim Pullman and Liz Teulings Pullman in furnishing the details on Spring Counts prior to 1976 is also acknowledged, with thanks. The consolidation and research upon Christmas Count results through 1981 by Steve Graves were found to be very useful. A record of the University Lake survey in the 1940s was thoughtfully supplied by Wallace Patterson. Marie Graves read the manuscript and offered many helpful suggestions. Finally, the encouragement given by the officers of the CHBC to the project is gratefully acknowledged.
Chapel Hill Bird Club