authored by Erik Thomas
On June 15, I conducted some bird counts at the Lumber River Important Bird Area (IBA), which the Wake Audubon Society monitors. Counting consists of stopping for ten minutes at designated spots and making a record of all birds seen or heard. All of the sites in the Lumber River IBA are wetland habitats. This time, however, I decided to do something a little different. I counted at six of the designated sites along Ashpole Swamp, which parallels the South Carolina border a few miles away, and six other spots at nearby upland sites that are not designated locations.
The contrast in birdlife between the bottomland sites and the upland sites was striking. Down in the bottomlands, birds of wooded swamps were plentiful. I heard Yellow-billed Cuckoos at several sites, Red-shouldered Hawks at a few, and various kinds of woodpeckers. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were easy to find, and I heard—but only occasionally saw—quite a few Carolina Wrens and some Acadian Flycatchers. Prothonotary Warblers, Northern Parulas, and Yellow-throated Warblers were actively defending territories. Here and there a White-eyed Vireo chattered. There was even a flock of Wood Storks passing overhead.
Just up the hill from the swamp, however, the birds changed dramatically. Three members of the icterid family—the Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole, and Red-winged Blackbird—appeared there. Indigo Buntings were singing at several spots, and Northern Mockingbirds guarded yards throughout. Mourning Doves sat on power lines or flew by nearly everywhere. Cattle Egrets were attending a group of steers at one site and a Chipping Sparrow was singing heartily at another. Most impressively, a congregation of Mississippi Kites—I counted nine, but there may have been more—was sailing over some fields.
If you’d like to see more details, I’ve uploaded all the counts I did to eBird. One additional sighting I had was a series of realtor signs in Ashpole Swamp. It seems that most of the swamp is for sale. It’s too wet to develop for housing (fortunately!), but logging interests may want to pounce on it. It would be desirable if the state or an environmental organization could acquire this valuable and extensive habitat, perhaps to be added to Lumber River State Park at some future date.
Authored by Jeff Beane
Date: 10-11 May 2016
Team: Jeff Beane, Ed Corey, Bob Davis, John Finnegan, Stephanie Horton (“24-Hour Dream Team”) [Also, Nathan Shepard set minnow traps for us in the Sandhills on Tuesday, resulting in three species we did not encounter otherwise.] Species counted: Vertebrates
Time spent: 24 hrs. We officially began our count at 8:11 a.m. on 10 May and ended at 8:11 a.m. on 11 May. Beane, Corey, and Davis participated for the entire 24 hours; Finnegan and Horton participated for about the first 8-9 hours and rejoined us for about the last 2 hours.
Area covered: Our search included portions of Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Hoke, Moore, New Hanover, Pender, Richmond, Robeson, and Scotland counties, NC. We began at 1208 Canal Drive (ca. 1.0 airmi. NNE Carolina Beach) in New Hanover County and ended on the Sandhills Game Lands (ca. 5.2 airmi. NW of Marston) in Richmond County.
Weather: Mostly sunny to partly cloudy with a high temperature around 90F and lows in the low 60sF. Techniques: Most species were observed via visual and auditory searches, while walking and driving. Binoculars and a spotting scope were used to assist in viewing many species. Several species were taken in dipnets, a 12-ft. seine, and minnow traps; and several were found by turning natural and artificial surface cover. Several species were observed only as road-kills or otherwise dead specimens; these are noted by an asterisk (*).
Lepisosteus osseus Longnose Gar
Amia calva Bowfin
Brevoortia tyrannus Atlantic Menhaden *
Umbra pygmaea Eastern Mudminnow
Esox americanus Redfin Pickerel
Esox niger Chain Pickerel
Notropis maculatus Tailllight Shiner
Notropis petersoni Coastal Shiner
Cyprinodon variegatus Sheepshead Minnow
Fundulus heteroclitus Mummichog
Fundulus lineolatus Lined Topminnow
Fundulus majalis Striped Killifish
Lucania parva Rainwater Killifish
Gambusia holbrooki Eastern Mosquitofish
Heterandria formosa Least Killifish
Poecilia latipinna Sailfin Molly
Aphredoderus sayanus Pirate Perch
Chologaster cornuta Swampfish
Pomatomus saltatrix Bluefish *
Opsanus tau Oyster Toadfish *
Labidesthes [sicculus] vanhyningi Southern Brook Silverside
Chaenobryttus gulosus Warmouth
Enneacanthus chaetodon Black-banded Sunfish
Enneacanthus gloriosus Blue-spotted Sunfish
Enneacanthus obesus Banded Sunfish
Lepomis macrochirus Bluegill
Lepomis marginatus Dollar Sunfish
Lepomis microlophus Redear Sunfish
Micropterus salmoides Largemouth Bass
Elassoma boehlkei Carolina Pygmy Sunfish
Elassoma evergladei Everglades Pygmy Sunfish
Etheostoma olmstedi Tessellated Darter
Perca flavescens Yellow Perch
Lagodon rhomboides Pinfish
Leiostomus xanthurus Spot
Menticirrhus americanus Southern Kingfish *
Micropogonias undulatus Atlantic Croaker
Mugil curema White Mullet
Eleotris pisonis Spinycheek Sleeper
Scomberomorus cavalla King Mackerel *
Scomberomorus maculatus Spanish Mackerel
Necturus punctatus Dwarf Waterdog
Amphiuma means Two-toed Amphiuma
Notophthalmus viridescens Eastern Newt
Eurycea n. sp. “Sandhills Eurycea”
Bufo [Anaxyrus] terrestris Southern Toad
Acris gryllus Southern Cricket Frog
Hyla chrysoscelis Cope’s Gray Treefrog
Hyla cinerea Green Treefrog
Hyla femoralis Pine Woods Treefrog
Hyla gratiosa Barking Treefrog
Hyla squirella Squirrel Treefrog
Pseudacris crucifer Spring Peeper
Pseudacris ocularis Little Grass Frog
Gastrophryne carolinensis Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad
Rana catesbeiana [Lithobates catesbeianus] American Bullfrog
Rana [Lithobates] clamitans Green Frog
Rana sphenocephala [Lithobates sphenocephalus] Southern Leopard Frog
Rana [Lithobates] virgatipes Carpenter Frog
Reptiles (including crocodilians and chelonians)
Alligator mississippiensis American Alligator
Chelydra serpentina Common Snapping Turtle *
Kinosternon baurii Striped Mud Turtle
Sternotherus odoratus Eastern Musk Turtle
Deirochelys reticularia Eastern Chicken Turtle
Pseudemys concinna River Cooter
Trachemys scripta Yellow-bellied Slider
Dermochelys coriacea Leatherback
Anolis carolinensis Green Anole
Sceloporus undulatus Fence Lizard
Cnemidophorus sexlineatus [Aspidoscelis sexlineata] Six-lined Racerunner
Eumeces [Plestiodon] inexpectatus Southeastern Five-lined Skink Eumeces [Plestiodon] laticeps Broadhead Skink
Scincella lateralis Ground Skink
Ophisaurus ventralis Eastern Glass Lizard
Coluber constrictor Black Racer
Diadophis punctatus Ring-necked Snake
Elaphe guttata [=Pantherophis guttatus] Corn Snake *
Elaphe obsoleta [=Pantherophis obsoletus, etc.] Rat Snake *
Farancia abacura Mud Snake
Nerodia fasciata Banded Water Snake *
Nerodia taxispilota Brown Water Snake
Storeria occipitomaculata Red-bellied Snake
Tantilla coronata Southeastern Crowned Snake
Agkistrodon contortrix Copperhead *
Aix sponsa Wood Duck
Anas platyrhynchos Mallard
Branta canadensis Canada Goose
Colinus virginianus Northern Bobwhite *
Meleagris gallopavo Wild Turkey
Gavia immer Common Loon
Morus bassanus Northern Gannet
Phalacrocorax auritus Double-crested Cormorant
Anhinga anhinga Anhinga
Pelecanus occidentalis Brown Pelican
Ardea alba Great Egret
Ardea herodias Great Blue Heron
Butorides virescens Green Heron
Egretta caerulea Little Blue Heron
Egretta thula Snowy Egret
Egretta tricolor Tricolored Heron
Nyctanassa violacea Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Eudocimus albus White Ibis
Plegadis falcinellus Glossy Ibis
Cathartes aura Turkey Vulture
Pandion haliaetus Osprey
Buteo lineatus Red-shouldered Hawk
Circus cyaneus Northern Harrier
Haliaeetus leucocephalus Bald Eagle
Rallus elgans King Rail
Rallus longirostris Clapper Rail
Charadrius semipalmatus Semipalmated Plover
Charadrius vociferus Killdeer
Charadrius wilsonia Wilson’s Plover
Pluvialis squatarola Black-bellied Plover
Haematopus palliatus American Oystercatcher
Arenaria interpres Ruddy Turnstone
Actitis macularia Spotted Sandpiper
Calidris alba Sanderling
Calidris alpina Dunlin
Calidris mauri Western Sandpiper
Calidris minutilla Least Sandpiper
Calidris pusilla Semipalmated Sandpiper
Limnodromus griseus Short-billed Dowitcher
Numenius phaeopus Whimbrel
Tringa melanoleuca Greater Yellowlegs
Tringa semipalmata Willet
Tringa solitaria Solitary Sandpiper
Larus argentatus Herring Gull
Larus delawarensis Ring-billed Gull
Larus marinus Great Black-backed Gull
Leucophaeus [Larus] atricilla Laughing Gull
Gelochelidon [Sterna] nilotica Gull-billed Tern
Rhynchops niger Black Skimmer
Sterna forsteri Forster’s Tern
Sternula antillarum Least Tern
Thalasseus maximus [Sterna maxima] Royal Tern
Thalasseus [Sterna] sandvicensis Sandwich Tern
Columba livia Rock Pigeon
Streptopelia decaocto Eurasian Collared-Dove
Zenaida macroura Mourning Dove
Coccyzus americanus Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Strix varia Barred Owl
Caprimulgus carolinensis Chuck-Will’s-Widow
Caprimulgus vociferus Whip-Poor-Will
Chordeiles minor Common Nighthawk
Chaetura pelagica Chimney Swift
Archilochus colubris Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Megaceryle alcyon Belted Kingfisher
Colaptes auratus Northern Flicker
Dryocopus pileatus Pileated Woodpecker
Melanerpes carolinus Red-bellied Woodpecker
Melanerpes erythrocephalus Red-headed Woodpecker
Picoides borealis Red-cockaded Woopecker
Picoides pubescens Downy Woodpecker
Picoides villosus Hairy Woodpecker
Contopus virens Eastern Wood-Pewee
Empidonax virescens Acadian Flycatcher
Myiarchus crinitus Great Crested Flycatcher
Sayornis phoebe Eastern Phoebe
Tyrannus tyrannus Eastern Kingbird
Lanius ludovicianus Loggerhead Shrike
Vireo flavifrons Yellow-throated Vireo
Vireo griseus White-eyed Vireo
Vireo olivaceus Red-eyed Vireo
Corvus brachyrhynchos American Crow
Corvus ossifragus Fish Crow
Cyanocitta cristata Blue Jay
Hirundo rustica Barn Swallow
Progne subis Purple Martin
Stelgidopteryx serripennis Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tachycineta bicolor Tree Swallow
Baeolophus bicolor Tufted Titmouse
Poecile carolinensis Carolina Chickadee
Sitta pusilla Brown-headed Nuthatch
Cistothorus palustris Marsh Wren
Thryothorus ludovicianus Carolina Wren
Polioptila caerulea Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Catharus ustulatus Swainson’s Thrush
Hylocichla mustelina Wood Thrush
Sialia sialis Eastern Bluebird
Turdus migratorius American Robin
Dumetella carolinensis Gray Catbird
Mimus polyglottos Northern Mockingbird
Toxostoma rufum Brown Thrasher
Sturnus vulgaris European Starling
Bombycilla cedrorum Cedar Waxwing
Cardellina canadensis Canada Warbler
Geothlypis formosa KentuckyWarbler
Geothlypis trichas Common Yellowthroat
Icteria virens Yellow-breasted Chat
Limnothlypis swainsonii Swainson’s Warbler
Mniotilta varia Black-and-White Warbler
Parkesia motacilla Louisiana Waterthrush
Protonotaria citrea Prothonotary Warbler
Seiurus aurocapillus Ovenbird
Setophaga americana Northern Parula
Setophaga citrina Hooded Warbler
Setophaga discolor Prairie Warbler
Setophaga dominica Yellow-throated Warbler
Setophaga palmarum Palm Warbler
Setophaga petechia Yellow Warbler
Setophaga pinus Pine Warbler
Setophaga ruticilla American Redstart
Setophaga striata Blackpoll Warbler
Piranga olivacea Scarlet Tanager
Piranga rubra Summer Tanager
Aimophila aestivalis Bachman’s Sparrow
Pipilo erythrophthalmus Eastern Towhee
Spizella passerina Chipping Sparrow
Spizella pusilla Field Sparrow
Cardinalis cardinalis Northern Cardinal
Passerina caerulea Blue Grosbeak
Passerina ciris Painted Bunting
Passerina cyanea Indigo Bunting
Agelaius phoeniceus Red-winged Blackbird
Icterus spurius Orchard Oriole
Molothrus ater Brown-headed Cowbird
Quiscalus major Boat-tailed Grackle
Quiscalus quiscula Common Grackle
Carpodacus mexicanus House Finch
pinus [Carduelis] tristis American Goldfinch
Passer domesticus House Sparrow
Total Vertebrate Species: 231
Tuesday, 1:57 p.m. By far the highlight of this year’s Wildathon was the sighting of several Leatherbacks—one from the Kure Beach pier and
several off the beach at Ft. Fisher. A very unique species, the Leatherback is the most massive reptile in the world, occasionally weighing over a ton. Many of them were passing through the area to feed on cannonball jellyfish. This spectacular sea turtle was a lifer for everyone on the team.
Tuesday, 2:10 p.m. Gull-billed Terns at Ft. Fisher. Not always an easy species to see in NC.
We counted only those species which we could positively identify to the agreement of our team. We recorded several species not found on any of our previous Wildathons. Leatherback and Spinycheek Sleeper were lifer species for everyone on the team. We omitted from the list a few species that we were uncertain of.
Our total species count was the fourth-highest of the 24-hour Dream Team’s 17 Wildathons to date (our record was 248, in 2014). Our bird list was our second-best ever. For the 10th straight year, it was a pleasure to begin the event with two Ophisaurus ventralis at Carolina Beach in New Hanover County, in the backyard of the former home of the late Ms. Myrtle Curry, mother of team member Bob Davis. The last species recorded was Sceloporus undulatus, on Sandhills Game Lands in Richmond County with less than 30 seconds remaining. Two road-killed snakes were salvaged, and one fish was collected, for the collections of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences, and swabs were taken from a few amphibians and reptiles for a study on four emerging pathogens in amphibians and reptiles. Many observational records for various species were added to the Museum’s files and the NC Natural Heritage Program’s database.
We dedicate this Wildathon to our teammate John Finnegan, who is battling cancer; to the late Dave Lenat, who recently lost his fight with it; and to all wild, free things everywhere.
We wish to thank everyone who pledged our team this year. At this point, our pledged sponsors include Sunny and Lee Allen, Rudy Arndt, Jeff Beane, Erla Beegle, Ann Bilobrowka, Colleen Bockhahn, Hal Broadfoot, Alan Cameron, Sue Cameron, Angelo Capparella, Ed Corey, Bob Davis and Judy Morgan-Davis, Kelly Davis, Angie and Bill DeLozier, Janet Edgerton, John Finnegan and Stephanie Horton, Lena Gallitano, Jim Green, Luke and Shannon Groff, Jeff Hall, Diane Hardy, Andy Harrison, Julie Horvath, Ted Kahn, Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, Roland Kays, Susan Kelemen, Sam Kennedy, Jane and Craig Lawrence, Tony Leiro, Greg Lewbart and Diane Deresienski, Lloyd Lewis, Gerry Luginbuhl, Jeff Marcus, Bob Oberfelder, Justin Oguni, Linda Rudd, Annie Runyon, Melody Scott, Megan Serr, Olivia and Jill Slack, Kim Smart, Dorothy Stowe, Leslie and John Watschke, Jan Weems, Kari Wouk, Steve Zimmerman, and almost certainly some others we may have inadvertently left out. Special thanks to Nate Shepard for help with trapping, to Ed Corey for the use of his vehicle, and to Jeff Beane and Bob Davis for providing their houses as bases of operation and lodging for the very tired. All monies raised will be used to support the same projects as previous years (Audubon’s Coastal Island Sanctuaries, local Wake Audubon projects, Project Bog Turtle, and Project Simus). Your generous support is greatly appreciated! You are the reason we keep doing it every year.
It’s not too late to make a donation! If you haven’t already done so, please send your pledges to the address below (or give them to any of our team members or to Wake Audubon Treasurer John Gerwin) as soon as possible. Make checks payable to “Wake Audubon” (or “NC Herpetological Society” if you want to donate only to those projects). You can also use the PayPal option on Wake Audubon’s website (under “donate” on the home page), but please indicate that your donation is for the Wildathon, and let us know that you’ve paid via that option. Please contact one of us if you have any other questions.
We thoroughly enjoyed the event, and we are already looking forward to participating again next year. Sincere thanks from all of us!
￼￼Tuesday, 7:42 p.m. A Little Blue Heron rookery at Lake Waccamaw.
Tuesday, 8:55 p.m. A Mud Snake near Lake Waccamaw kicks off the long night. After finding three of these beautiful semiaquatic serpents road-killed, we were pleased to see one alive.
Wednesday, 4:08 a.m. Minnow traps yielded a Two-toed Amphiuma. This unique, eel-like salamander is North America’s longest amphibian and supposedly has the largest red blood cells of any animal.
Wednesday, 7:29 a.m. We saw many Killdeer during this year’s Wildathon. We could only hope our resolve during the final hour was as strong as that of this tenacious female protecting her eggs.
￼￼Wednesday, 3:02 a.m. Sneaking up on nightjars is a fun way to stay awake in the wee hours. Much more often heard than seen, Chuck-Will’s-Widows have shown up on all of our Wildathons to date.
￼￼Wednesday, 7:20 a.m. Less than an hour remaining; exhaustedly scrambling for a few more species. Luckily, we knew where to find Tree Swallows.
Authored by John Connors
The Raleigh Christmas Bird Count was held on December 19, 2015. It was clear and chilly…a marked change from what had been an extended mild autumn season. Sixty-seven participants were distributed in twenty teams scattered across the top birding spots in southern Wake County. Our Raleigh Christmas Bird Count has taken place in this same 15-mile diameter circle since 1937. The Count Circle center is at the Farmer’s Market along Lake Wheeler Road.
This year we had groups owling at Schenck Forest, Mid-Pines and Lake Raleigh; and one pair of intrepid birders took a pre-dawn paddle into the upper reaches of Lake Benson. Most groups assembled around 7 am and birded through the morning. For those who could make it, we got together for our mid-day Countdown at Yates Mill Pond County Park.
All told we tallied 99 species of birds for the Raleigh Christmas Bird Count- a pretty good count for our area these days. Years ago the Raleigh CBC would regularly top 110 species, but nowadays we hope for 100.
Highlights for this year’s Raleigh Count include:
1 Red-necked Grebe seen by boat at Lake Benson, 3 Redhead Ducks at Lake Wheeler, 1 Northern Harrier at Schenck Forest, 1 Horned Lark and 40 American Pipit along Mid-Pines Road, 2 Common Raven at Umstead State Park, 1 Blue-headed Vireo at Walnut Creek Wetland Center, and 1 Orange-crowned Warbler at Lake Raleigh. The American Bittern made an appearance at Prairie Ridge Eco-station, and an incredible 11 Bald Eagles were seen at various locations across the Count Circle. Other notable species which may have lingered in our area during the warm fall weather include: 2 House Wren, 1 Gray Catbird, 2 Palm Warbler, and 1 Common Yellowthroat. A total of 11 Fox Sparrow (mostly at Schenck), 3 White-crowned Sparrow, and 13 Rusty Blackbird were also seen. In addition, 12 Baltimore Oriole, most at Lena Gallitano’s feeders, were tallied. Winter finches were noticeably absent- only 3 Purple Finches were seen.
More worrisome were the low numbers for Loggerhead Shrike (1), and Eastern Meadowlark (7). Bobwhite Quail may have disappeared from the count circle entirely. Perhaps the oddest miss was for the Fish Crow- the first time in many years where none was reported. Of course years ago the species was very rare here. Not to worry, they are now a common breeding bird and as I finish writing this post I can hear some outside my office window.
Thanks to all those who participated and particularly to those who worked as site leaders. John Connors
All Christmas Bird Count data can be viewed at:
Authored by John Connors
Report from the Field
The Raleigh Christmas Bird Count was held on Saturday, December 19. After an extended warm spell, Saturday was clear but seasonably cold with early morning temperatures below freezing, and the wind picked up as the day advanced.
Twenty-one groups with more than 70 participants surveyed the same southern Wake County parks, reservoirs and farmlands that bird counters have been visiting since the Raleigh Count was initiated in 1937. As compiler, I organize the group leaders and assign participants before the count, and then I tally and submit the results to a national database afterward.
I haven’t received all the count tallies yet, but preliminary results list 95 species of birds sighted by our groups. Many counters reported low overall bird numbers, and some species were noticeably uncommon, for example, Goldfinch. But diversity and numbers for most species was comparable to other years.
Some highlights include:
Redhead Duck (2) at Lake Wheeler, Northern Harrier (1) near Schenck Forest, Horned Lark (1) and American Pipits (45) at Mid-Pines, Loggerhead Shrike (1) at Schenck Forest, Blue-headed Vireo (1) at Walnut Creek, Common Raven (2) at Umstead State Park, as well as singles and multiple sightings of the following: House Wren, Gray Catbird, Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Fox Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, Baltimore Oriole and Purple Finch.
The best bird of the day might be a Red-necked Grebe that was seen at Lake Benson by our paddling birding team of Kyle Kittelberger and Brian Bockhahn. This might be the first ever reported on our count.
Notable misses up to this point include: Northern Bobwhite, Eastern Screech Owl, Herring Gull, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskin.
Have a happy, safe and peaceful Holiday season.
by Jeff Beane
Every holiday season, tens of thousands of volunteers, mostly in the U.S. and Canada, but also in at least 15 other countries, brave cold, rain, wind and snow to participate in the Christmas Bird Count. The data they gather are used to assess the health of bird populations and guide conservation actions.
What they are
Sponsored by the National Audubon Society, Christmas Bird Counts are held each year between December 14th and January 5th. Their basic purpose is to census bird populations. Each regional count covers a “count circle” 15 miles in diameter, or about 177 square miles. Participants divide into small groups, and each group covers a specific assigned portion of the circle as thoroughly as possible. They identify and count, to the best of their ability, every bird seen during their 24 hour count date. Participants may count birds all day, or for only a few hours. Some prefer to watch their feeders and report those results. Usually one person serves as coordinator, organizing participation, compiling data, and submitting final results to National Audubon.
How they started
Attitudes toward, and appreciation for, wildlife and conservation in this country have changed drastically over the years. In the 19th century, before there were laws protecting migratory birds, “side hunts” were a popular holiday tradition. Contestants would choose sides and see how many birds and other animals a team could shoot in a single day. Frank M. Chapman, a young ornithologist and early officer in the newly formed Audubon Society, was outraged by this senseless killing and waste of wildlife. In protest, on Christmas Day 1899, he counted live birds for three hours, publishing his results in the newly created Bird-Lore magazine (which later became Audubon), and encouraged other bird lovers to do the same. The next year, 1900, the first national count was held, with 27 participants counting in 25 locations across the U.S. and Canada.
Each year since then, the Christmas Bird Counts, or CBCs, have grown. Well over 2,000 regional counts are now held, with over 70,000 participants. About 40 are held in North Carolina. This year’s 116th annual count promises to be the biggest yet. The Raleigh CBC, sponsored by Wake Audubon, will be held on Saturday, 19 December 2015. Contact John Connors [email protected] or John Gerwin [email protected] if you would like to participate.
Why they’re important
CBCs are among the best data sources we have on bird populations. They can depict trends and population fluctuations over time. They are also the best-known citizen science projects in the world—allowing ordinary citizens to gather data that contribute to the overall body of our knowledge about birds. The counts certainly have their flaws and shortcomings. Not every part of a count circle can be covered. Certainly not every bird gets seen or identified. Large flocks can’t be counted precisely. It’s hard to be sure that some birds don’t get counted more than once. But the sheer volume of information and the consistency of holding the counts in the same places, during the same seasons, often with the same participants counting in the same fashion, year after year, make the data very valuable. Studies have shown that CBC data correlate closely with those gathered using more rigorous scientific methods. Hundreds of peer-reviewed articles have been published in scientific journals using analyses done with CBC data. State and federal agencies also use the information to make important bird conservation decisions.
Why they’re fun
CBCs are good opportunities to learn about birds from skilled and knowledgeable birders. They are also social events, where birders can make new friends, or spend time with old ones. These are the biggest reasons that many people participate. Many counts have special traditions, including lunches, dinners, and countdown parties during which data are compiled and stories are shared. Some even have their own T-shirts. The Raleigh CBC’s annual potluck dinner, the venison chili and pralines usually to be had at the Southern Pines count, and the Key lime pie and seafood featured at the tally rally following the Ocracoke and Portsmouth counts, will be enough to keep you coming back. But even better are the things you’ll see and learn, and the friends and memories you’ll make.
If you don’t know birds very well, you can still be placed with a team of good birders and help by spotting birds for them to identify, or by helping them keep their list. Birding with experts is one of the best ways to learn. Even if you don’t participate in an organized count or project, birding is fun and educational in its own right, and is one of the easiest outdoor activities to get interested in, because you can watch birds anywhere. A pair of binoculars and a good field guide are all you need to get started. And you have all year to learn and practice for those Christmas Counts!
Atlas of Wintering North American Birds: An Analysis of Christmas Bird Count Data by Terry Root, University of Chicago Press, 1988.
“Out for the Count” by Jeff Beane, Wildlife in North Carolina, December 2006.
National Audubon Society: Christmas Bird Count:
A group for bird lovers in the Carolinas:
Birding with a purpose—learn about bird citizen science projects:
An online checklist program to count, report, and keep track of birds anytime, anywhere:
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and information on many bird projects:
Authored by Jeff Beane
On Friday-Sunday, 13-15 November, Wake Audubon held its Alligator River Adventure trip, a joint field trip between and Wake Audubon and the Museum of Natural Sciences, usually offered every two to three years. Trip leaders were Jerry Reynolds and Jeff Beane. Also participating were Herb Amyx, Pat Amyx, Betty Lou Chaika, David Chaika, Dan Harvey, Sue Harvey, Cindy Lincoln, Mary Martorella, Ann McCormick, Betsy McCormick, Betty Ann O’Brien, Adair Pickard, Louise Romanow, Mary Ann Rood, and Bill Swallow.
Our itinerary included Alligator River, Pea Island, and Pocosin Lakes national wildlife refuges; Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve; Cape Hatteras National Seashore; Pettigrew and Jockey’s Ridge state parks; and a few other stops.
We left from the Museum’s Research Lab at 10 a.m. Friday morning, and returned at about 6 p.m. Sunday evening. We had good weather—sunny to partly cloudy and somewhat unseasonably warm. We identified 107 vertebrate species, including at least 83 birds, nine mammals, seven reptiles, five amphibians, and three fishes. A few other species were glimpsed but not positively identified. Highlights included good looks at several black bears, at least a dozen species each of waterfowl and shorebirds, good looks at American white pelicans and bald eagles, a few late-season reptiles basking, and a fresh road-killed mink. Bill glimpsed a short-eared owl, but he was the only one to see it. We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Nags Head, where some of us could see many species from out our motel room windows, and we enjoyed picnic and fast food lunches and fine dinner dining at Basnight’s Lone Cedar and La Fogata Mexican restaurants. Good times were had by all.
* = observed only as dead-on-road (DOR) or otherwise dead specimens.
Not all species were seen by all members of the group; some may have been seen by only one or two people.
Strongylura marina Atlantic Needlefish (at least 2)
Cyprinodon variegatus Sheepshead Minnow (many)
Gambusia holbrooki Eastern Mosquitofish (many)
Ambystoma opacum Marbled Salamander (4 adults)
Bufo [Anaxyrus] [cf. americanus x terrestris] “American/Southern Toad” (1 adult female)
Acris gryllus Southern Cricket Frog (at least 2)
Hyla cinerea Green Treefrog (a few)
Rana catesbeiana [Lithobates catesbeianus] American Bullfrog (at least 2 or 3)
Chrysemys p. picta Eastern Painted Turtle (several)
Clemmys guttata Spotted Turtle (at least 1)
Pseudemys rubriventris Red-bellied Cooter (many)
Trachemys s. scripta Yellow-bellied Slider (many)
Nerodia erythrogaster Red-bellied Water Snake (1 adult)
Nerodia fasciata Banded Water Snake (1 adult)
Thamnophis s. sauritus Eastern Ribbon Snake (1 small adult male DOR) *
Aix sponsa Wood Duck (at least 7)
Anas acuta Northern Pintail (several)
Anas americana American Widgeon (many)
Anas clypeata Northern Shoveler (many)
Anas crecca Green-winged Teal (many)
Anas discors Blue-winged Teal (at least 1)
Anas platyrhynchos Mallard (many)
Anas rubripes American Black Duck (many)
Anas strepera Gadwall (many)
Branta canadensis Canada Goose (many)
Cygnus columbianus Tundra Swan (many)
Lophodytes cucullatus Hooded Merganser (a few)
Oxyura jamaicensis Ruddy Duck (many)
Colinus virginianus Northern Bobwhite (at least 6-7)
Meleagris gallopavo Wild Turkey (at least 27)
Podilymbus podiceps Pied-billed Grebe (many)
Morus bassanus Northern Gannet (many)
Phalacrocorax auritus Double-crested Cormorant (many)
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos American White Pelican (many)
Pelecanus occidentalis Brown Pelican (many)
Ardea alba Great Egret (many)
Ardea herodias Great Blue Heron (many)
Egretta thula Snowy Egret (a few)
Egretta tricolor Tricolored Heron (a few)
Eudocimus albus White Ibis (many)
Cathartes aura Turkey Vulture (many)
Coragyps atratus Black Vulture (several)
Accipiter cooperii Cooper’s Hawk (at least 1 or 2)
Accipiter striatus Sharp-shinned Hawk ( at least 2 or 3)
Buteo jamaicensis Red-tailed Hawk (many)
Circus cyaneus Northern Harrier (many)
Haliaeetus leucocephalus Bald Eagle (several)
Falco sparverius American Kestrel (many)
Fulica americana American Coot (at least 1)
Rallus limicola Virginia Rail (several heard; at least 2 seen)
Charadrius semipalmatus Semipalmated Plover (at least 1)
Charadrius vociferus Killdeer (many)
Pluvialis squatarola Black-bellied Plover (many)
Haematopus palliatus American Oystercatcher (at least 2)
Recurvirostra americana American Avocet (many)
Arenaria interpres Ruddy Turnstone (several)
Calidris alba Sanderling (many)
Calidris alpina Dunlin (many)
Calidris canutus Red Knot (1)
Tringa flavipes Lesser Yellowlegs (many)
Tringa melanoleuca Greater Yellowlegs (many)
Tringa semipalmata Willet (many)
Chroicocephalus philadelphia Bonaparte’s Gull (several)
Larus argentatus Herring Gull (many)
Larus delawarensis Ring-billed Gull (many)
Larus marinus Great Black-backed Gull (many)
Leucophaeus atricilla Laughing Gull (many)
Sterna forsteri Forster’s Tern (many)
Thalasseus maximus Royal Tern (several)
Columba livia Rock Pigeon (many)
Zenaida macroura Mourning Dove (many)
Asio flammeus Short-eared Owl (1)
Megaceryle alcyon Belted Kingfisher (at least 2)
Colaptes auratus Northern Flicker (several)
Melanerpes carolinus Red-bellied Woodpecker (several)
Sayornis phoebe Eastern Phoebe (a few)
Corvus brachyrhynchos American Crow (many)
Corvus ossifragus Fish Crow (at least 1)
Cyanocitta cristata Blue Jay (at least 2)
Tachycineta bicolor Tree Swallow (many)
Poecile carolinensis Carolina Chickadee (several)
Cistothorus palustris Marsh Wren (at least 1)
Thryothorus ludovicianus Carolina Wren (several)
Troglodytes aedon House Wren (at least 1)
Turdus migratorius American Robin (several)
Dumetella carolinensis Gray Catbird (a few)
Mimus polyglottos Northern Mockingbird (many)
Sturnus vulgaris European Starling (many)
Bombycilla cedrorum Cedar Waxwing (several)
Setophaga coronata Yellow-rumped Warbler (many)
Melospiza melodia Song Sparrow (a few)
Passerculus sandwichensis Savannah Sparrow (many)
Zonotrichia albicollis White-throated Sparrow (at least 1 or 2)
Cardinalis cardinalis Northern Cardinal (a few)
Agelaius phoeniceus Red-winged Blackbird (many)
Quiscalus major Boat-tailed Grackle (many)
Sturnella magna Eastern Meadowlark (many)
Carpodacus mexicanus House Finch (a few)
Didelphis virginiana Virginia Opossum (many DOR en route) *
Ursus americanus American Black Bear (at least 6-7)
Procyon lotor Common Raccoon (several DOR) *
Mephitis mephitis Striped Skunk (1 adult DOR en route) *
Neovison [Mustela] vison Mink (1 adult female DOR) *
Urocyon cinereoargenteus Gray Fox (at least 1 or 2 DOR en route) *
Sciurus carolinensis Eastern Gray Squirrel (several alive and DOR)
Odocoileus virginianus White-tailed Deer (many alive and DOR, mostly en route)
Megaptera novaeangliae Humpback Whale (remains of 1 dead on beach) *
Fishes: at least 3
Amphibians: at least 5
Birds: at least 83
Mammals: at least 9
Authored by Rick LaRose
Greetings Wake Audubon members and friends! As board member John Connors wrote in the previous post, we’re terrifically excited to Celebrate Swifts and the completion of our Chimney Swift Roost Tower with you the weekend of August 21-23. Friday night, join us downtown at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences for a forum with swift experts from across North America. On Saturday, late afternoon through dusk, join us at Prairie Ridge Ecostation — the site of our tower — for family fun and games and the tower dedication. Bring a blanket or chairs, hang out with us as the sun sets, and let’s see how many swifts join in on the celebration! Meet us out and about Sunday at dusk for more swift viewings at urban chimneys you might not know exist, some in possible peril.
Thank you to all of you who have helped to make this tower a reality through your generous donations, many in support of our Buy a Brick for Swifts campaign. With the tower installed, your future donations will help fund technology to study swift activity at the tower and to landscape with native plants around the tower and viewing patio. See your inscribed bricks on display when you join us on August 22.
I also want to express my sincere appreciation for your ongoing support of Wake Audubon — as participants in our advocacy, conservation, and education initiatives; as volunteers; as members; as donors — in fulfillment of our mission.
Together we’ve successfully advocated to protect land in Eastern NC for endangered Henslow’s sparrows. Locally, we’re helping to conserve monarch butterflies by planting milkweed, the American woodcock by maintaining nesting grounds, and native landscape by removing invasive species — these among many other conservation efforts. And together we’re providing education to families as exhibitors at community events throughout the year. We enjoy your fellowship through all these activities, at monthly educational program and chapter meetings, on bird walks and field trips, and at bird counts. Thank you.
While we’ve had a busy year thus far, we have much more in store for this summer, including our August 11 chapter meeting, where members will show and tell about an array of experiences and adventures. Always entertaining! Bring a potluck dish to share and have a slice of cake in celebration of Wake Audubon’s 40th anniversary, with a preview to our August swift celebration!
While on our web site, see our calendar for summer and fall activities. Read recent blog posts. Visit our Flickr photostream. At the top right of any web page, find us on Facebook, and join our Wake Audubon Meetup group.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
President, Wake Audubon
Authored by John Connors
Friday, May 22, after a morning of banding birds, Eddie Owens and I were getting ready to hop in our cars when he pointed to a small group of swifts circling above the Chimney Swift Roost Tower at Prairie Ridge Ecostation in west Raleigh.
As we watched, one of the birds took a quick turn and disappeared down the mouth of the chimney. We were thrilled to confirm reports from others that swifts had discovered our tower. But this wasn’t the first bit of good news Wake Audubon had received about swifts this spring.
Earlier in May, I watched four chimney swifts circle over an information kiosk at Anderson Point Park in east Raleigh. The swifts were noisy and clearly eyeing the structure. Of course this wasn’t just any old information kiosk; it was one Wake Audubon had commissioned several years ago to be built by an Eagle Scout, and it had a swift nesting chimney installed as its center.
Soon the birds circled higher, and I was able to watch a swift fly through the top of a tall maple to grab dead twigs. They returned to the kiosk. One of the swirling swifts raised its wings high, slowed down, and descended into the chimney’s center. It was the first confirmation that swifts are using the kiosk for nesting!
All of this began with Wake Audubon’s ambitious undertaking to install the Chimney Swift Roost Tower at Prairie Ridge Ecostation, a field research and education center for the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.
We spent three years planning and raising funds for the $36,000 project. More than 150 of you bought inscribed bricks. We secured donations from the Carolina Bird Club and the estate of Vicki Weiss, as well as grants from the Toyota TogetherGreen by Audubon program. Frank Harmon Associates donated design services and Custom Brick & Supply of Raleigh donated the bricks. Installation of the tower was completed in November.
The tower is one of just a few large brick chimneys that have been built specifically for roosting swifts in the eastern U.S. We think it is, in fact, one of only three. Our tower is large: 30 feet tall with a 5-foot by 5-foot opening, designed to accommodate thousands of roosting swifts. There are portholes for looking inside the tower and for installing cameras and scientific equipment. We are hopeful, but there are no guarantees with these things.
Of course we did our homework, which meant contacting Paul and Georgeann Kyle in Austin, Texas, who established a chimney swift research center in Austin and spearheaded the chimneyswifts.org website. They have years of experience experimenting with the design of swift nesting structures, including the practical swift nesting information kiosk that proved successful at Anderson Point Park. And they have had some success with small roosts.
With the tower completed, our attention turns to celebrating it with you, together with experts from across North America who have tirelessly worked to conserve this species of concern. In March, Wake Audubon received a Toyota TogetherGreen Alumni Award to host a chimney swift conservation forum and workshop.
When we began thinking about hosting a forum, our first invitation was sent to the Kyles, who agreed to be our featured speakers and will give an overview of their decades spent working with swifts. But there will be more, much more.
Researchers from UNC Chapel Hill will offer a three-dimensional look at the flight patterns of swift flocks filmed flying above downtown Raleigh; Amy Weidensaul and Brian Shema from Audubon Pennsylvania will discuss educational programming at swift roosts; Charles Collins, a retired biologist from California, will compare swifts from around the world, and Larry Schwitter will describe Vaux’s Happenings in Washington state. Audubon NC plans to highlight chimney swifts across the state next year.
Join us Friday evening, August 21, at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences for the symposium. On Saturday, August 22, Wake Audubon will partner with the museum to host the Chimney Swift Family Festival at Prairie Ridge Ecostation — our official celebration of the completion of the Chimney Swift Roost Tower. This will be a family-friendly event starting mid-afternoon. The festivities will include games for all ages, such as a roost-hole corn-hole contest, swift nest and mask making, and catch-a penny stealer bug chase games. (Intrigued? We know you are!) We will also have educational tables, arts and crafts, food trucks, music, guided hikes, and a roost viewing as the sun sets. Sunday at dusk, join us for swift roost viewings at other county sites.
Details on these events will be posted here, on our Celebrate Swifts page. All are free admission.
We can use volunteer help at Family Festival. Please contact us at [email protected] if you are able to help. And please plan to attend the Friday chimney swift forum the Saturday family festival and the Sunday swift viewing the weekend of August 21-23.
By John Connors and Bryan England
All photos by Bryan England
In the last week I’ve heard reports of Monarch caterpillars feeding on previous milkweed plantings at Horseshoe Farm, Monarchs flying at Anderson Point, and I saw one flying Saturday at Yates Mill Pond. All good news! So the time has come to add to the inventory of milkweed available at public parks around Wake County.
The Common Milkweed seedlings have arrived and we have flagged the planting zones at both Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Preserve and Harris Lake County Park. The sites look good…Wilkerson has a clay loam soil and lots of open meadow which was formerly cow pasture- once established milkweed should thrive here and attract many monarchs; Harris Lake has easy to dig sandy loam in a meadow that was once farmed- it will be a good late summer breeding site for monarchs. The Wilkerson meadow was mowed maybe a month ago, so we’ll be planting in openings among the grasses. Harris Lake had a prescribed burn across their meadow…it will be a little easier working there.
We will clip openings in the grass, dig the planting holes, add a little soil improvement, plant the seedling, add a little mulch and water. It may take 3-5 minutes to plant each seedling. We will work in teams.
I imagine we should finish our work by noon, although Wilkerson may take a little longer as the soils will be more difficult to work.
You are part of a nationwide effort in trying to restore Monarch habitat- thanks for your willingness to help. See you in the meadow.
5/16/2015 from Bryan England, Assistant Manager, Wilkerson Nature Preserve
I want to thank everyone who came and helped with the planting last Thursday, and especially John for organizing it. I hope I will be able to send you all some pictures of monarchs here visiting “your” milkweeds in the seasons to come. We gave all 96 seedlings a drink of about a quart of water each today. The soil was starting to dry, and soaked the water right up, but all the plants looked healthy, with no post-planting wilting at all (although a couple seemed to have been nibbled by something). The flags and plantings in squares really helped us find them all, and made watering a pretty simple job.
5-23-2015 From Bryan England, Assistant Manager, Wilkerson Nature Preserve
Here’s the Milkweeds for Monarchs update from Wilkerson.
Nine days after your planting, we have Monarch eggs!
Several of the new plants had eggs like these when I checked today, so we may have caterpillars by sometime next week.
Overall, of the 96 plants, we’ve only lost 4 to browsers, and they may still re-sprout from the root. Of the 92 visible plants, 16 have had their top leaves browsed but are recovering with side branch growth.
None of the plants appeared diseased or drought-stressed, so the overall cohort appears strong. Thank you all for making these eggs possible!
5-24-2015 John Connors Wake Audubon Society
Well I didn’t see that coming! I did find three medium to full grown Monarch caterpillars at Raleigh’s Anderson Point Park yesterday, on milkweed I had planted several years ago- and that was without looking very hard. So maybe its going to be a good year for Monarchs.
It certainly will be a better future for Monarchs for the work all of you put in to get the milkweed planted at Wilkerson Preserve and Harris Lake…and for the efforts of staff and volunteers to keep the seedlings watered.
Thanks everyone, and thanks Bryan for keeping us informed.
6-2-2015 Bryan England, Wilkerson Nature Preserve
Here’s the Milkweeds for Monarchs update from Wilkerson–
Nineteen days after your planting, we have Monarch caterpillars!
Several of these brightly-striped caterpillars were observed on “your” milkweed plants today, all were about 10mm long (they say the camera always adds 10 lbs…). At one caterpillar per plant, they plants seem to be growing faster than the caterpillars can eat them (for now).
Overall, of the 96 plants, we’ve currently “lost” 5 to browsers. Of the 91 remaining visible plants, 27 have had their upper leaves browsed, but most are recovering well with side branch growth. Some of the browsed stems are obviously deer damage (rough, stringy bites), but the majority are rodent/rabbit damage (clean-cut, angled bites). The “wild” milkweeds at Wilkerson have also been browsed over the last week, mostly by deer, so that’s just a natural part of the food chain, too.
Authored by Clara Chaisson. The newly built tower at the Prairie Ridge Ecostation in Raleigh, North Carolina, offers comfortable accommodations for guests and 5,000 of their closest friends. Though it’s simply a 30-foot shaft with no windows, to chimney swifts (that’s swifts, not sweeps) the tower is like a five-star hotel. And the scientists who dreamed up the faux chimney are hoping that come spring, flocks of the birds will be checking in (so the researchers can check them out). To continue reading this blog and to see an amazing video, please click the underlined link. http://www.onearth.org/earthwire/raleigh-chimney-swift-tower