Authored by Erik Thomas and Liling Warren. All photos by Liling.
On March 27, board members Erik Thomas and Liling Warren traveled to Robeson County to conduct some bird counts. The bird counts were for two projects, monitoring of the Lumber River Important Bird Area (IBA) and the NC Bird Atlas. The Lumber River IBA has pre-designated stops along local roads at which counters list all birds seen or heard within a ten-minute period, with notes on how far away each bird was and when during the ten-minute period the bird made itself known. All of these stops lie in the lower part of the watershed of the Lumber River. The NC Bird Atlas, conversely, has all of North Carolina divided into rectangular blocks of land whose edges are several miles long. The aim of the NC Bird Atlas is to document breeding and wintering birds found in each block. One sixth of all the blocks are designated as “priority blocks,” those in which a more concerted effort is to be made in order to complete a thorough inventory of birds that dwell there. Observations of breeding behaviors are especially important. The ten-minute time limit does not apply to NC Bird Atlas counts. However, counting for the NC Bird Atlas will take place from March, 2021, through February, 2026, whereas the Lumber River IBA is a continuous project with no set termination.
The two counters spent the morning counting at Lumber River IBA sites. Because these spots all lie in bottomland areas, the birds that occur there are those that occur near water, along rivers or in swamps. We found a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nest, frescoed with lichens as is typical of that species. White-eyed Vireos were already back from the tropics and singing. We did exceptionally well with warblers, coming across eight species: Black-and-white, Prothonotary, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Pine, Yellow-throated, Yellow-rumped, and Prairie. It was surprising to see Prothonotary Warblers so early in the spring, but apparently they now reach the southern part of the state, where Robeson County is situated, in late March.
In the afternoon, we shifted to counting on upland sites for the NC Bird Atlas. Chipping Sparrows and Eastern Bluebirds were plentiful. We also encountered a pair of Loggerhead Shrikes and a Horned Lark. The most exciting find of the day, however, was a Swallow-tailed Kite that was heading northward as we stood in the Marietta Cemetery. Swallow-tailed Kites are magnificent birds—and virtually impossible to mistake. You can enjoy some of Liling Warren’s fine camera work of the kite and other birds here. For the entire day, we completed 21 counts, 10 of which were at Lumber River IBA sites. We entered all 21 in the NC Bird Atlas, and of those, 12 were in priority blocks.
Authored by Erik Thomas.
Two members of the Wake Audubon Society board, Colleen Bockhahn and Erik Thomas, conducted bird counts in the Lumber River Important Bird Area (IBA) on May 1 and 2. IBA’s are areas that provide especially extensive areas of prime bird habitat and may harbor uncommon or rare species. Audubon North Carolina has entrusted the Wake Audubon Society with monitoring the Lumber River IBA, which covers much of the eastern half of Robeson County. Designated points are established at which the counts take place. Counting follows a protocol in which counters record the numbers of each species they see or hear within a ten-minute period and approximately how far away each bird was from the point. WAS members have been monitoring the Lumber River IBA for the past nine years.
The primary goal of this trip was to find migrants. We found a few transient species during the trip: two Black-throated Blue Warblers, an American Redstart, several Black-and-white Warblers, and one Spotted Sandpiper. For the most part, however, we found local breeding species, in which the Lumber River IBA is notably rich. The bottomland forest warbler triumvirate of Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Parula, and Yellow-throated Warbler
was ubiquitous. Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Acadian and Great Crested Flycatchers, Pileated Woodpeckers, Barred Owls, Red-shouldered Hawks, and three species of vireos were frequent. We heard Swainson’s Warblers at three different count points. Even a few Wild Turkeys materialized. Perhaps our biggest surprise was a Wood Stork that was soaring overhead at one count point. One species that we did not find was the Red-headed Woodpecker, a bird that has appeared on many of our previous trips to the Lumber River IBA. Our total for the IBA on this trip was 73 species.
The records for all of the point counts are entered into a website that Audubon North Carolina keeps. Although this website is not publicly accessible, we also entered all the counts on eBird, so if you’re curious about what species we found at each site, just go to the eBird website (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/), click on “Explore Data,” and click on “Species Maps” to see any species or “Explore Hotspots” to see any of the individual points, which are designated as “Lumber River IBA D-01,” “Lumber River IBA D-02,” etc.