Archive for May, 2014

By Rob Rogers

Forsyth Audubon’s 2014 Spring Trip was to North Carolina’s southern coastal region. Our “Base of Operations” was the Comfort Inn Shallotte where we enjoyed excellent hospitality – despite a few “technical difficulties” our first night. I would like to offer a special thanks to Judy Scurry for guiding us on our Saturday morning outing to Sunset Beach and for her dining recommendations. Judy, you made our trip very enjoyable and I am sure I speak for the rest of the group. Our group rounded out at 24 folks – a nice size for spring! Several different mini groups enjoyed an afternoon of birding on Friday in several different locations. Carol and Ouida win the “Most Unusual Sighting Award” when they were treated to a “Target Bird” flyover of three Woodstorks a few miles before reaching Shallotte!   Friday Night’s restaurant of choice for a large part of the group was “Inlet View Seafood” in Shallotte. Judy recommended it and we were not disappointed.

Osprey.  Photo by Mike Conway.

Osprey. Photo by Mike Conway.

Saturday morning, we departed from the usual “Rob Early Start Time”, departing for Twin Lakes at 8:00 AM. There we saw several of the expected denizens – egrets and herons – from the coast as well as a Common Moorhen, Alligators and Fox Squirrels the size of Welsh Corgis. Ospreys were nesting in the tall pines and put on quite a show as did the Least Terns fishing quite successfully in the lake. We left the Lakes and drove to Twin Lakes Golf Course where Ospreys were nesting on platforms close to the parking lot. All were able to observe to their heart’s content. Especially interesting when one of the nesters showed up with a 10″ Whiting and proceeded to have breakfast in full view of the group. We left the golf course, navigated the roundabout and over the bridge to Sunset Beach. After a brief encounter with a Corn Snake, the best birding was on the inlet side of East Beach where we had excellent looks at Oystercatchers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Black Skimmers, Black-bellied Plovers and (a personal favorite) Red Knots. We had a quick look at the west end of the island and were delighted to have long looks at a Whimbrel. We left Sunset around noon and headed out to Oak Island.

American Oystercatchers.  Photo by Phil Dickinson.

American Oystercatchers. Photo by Phil Dickinson.

Whimbrel.  Photo by Phil Dickinson.

Whimbrel. Photo by Phil Dickinson.

On Oak Island, we birded the 3 walkovers across the marshy area and though the species count was not high, what we saw was both interesting and entertaining. At the 30th Street Walkover, we had a Clapper Rail calling directly under and around the boardwalk. Several got decent looks at the moving grasses and the bird slinking along almost invisible in its camouflage. The 20th Street Walkover proved the old adage that everyone – er, everything – is attracted to a fight. Two Boat-tailed Grackles were battling on one of the creek banks – one on the other’s back, hammering him mercilessly on the back of the head. The loud squawking attracted a Clapper Rail’s attention from the opposite side of the creek. The Clapper was standing most unClapper like with head and neck extended so much that at first we thought it might be a Limpkin. The Clapper stood there for 5 minutes in rapt attention at the spectacle before him until the Grackles finally stopped the “Barney.” After checking the 3rd walkover, we headed back to the hotel to recount the day’s events.

Clapper Rail.  Photo by Mike Conway.

Clapper Rail. Photo by Mike Conway.

Sunday morning, we got back to a more standard “Rob Early Start” with a 7:15 “AIS” time and headed for Holly Shelter Gamelands. Our timing was impeccable with Turkey season over on Saturday leaving the gates unlocked until Monday. We were able to drive in and avoid the 3 mile hike to Fussell’s recommended areas. First stop, as we stepped out of our automobiles, we heard numerous Prairie Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers and the crowd pleasing Red-headed Woodpeckers and Bobwhites. Just when we turned to go back to the cars, two Red-cockaded Woodpeckers flew in and all got good looks at this declining species. We drove to the second location and stopped to seek the Bachman’s Sparrow. We were directly in the area described by Fussell when we heard our first Bachman’s. The group scanned deep into the brush in vain until we realized the bird was singing a mere 20 feet from the road. Everyone “got on” the bird as he sang away and it was a lifer for many in the group. One last stop series near the drain pipes and we saw a luckless, Legless Lizard that had just been hit by a car. Alas, he did not make it but still an interesting sighting. The last of the drain pipes had Swainson’s Warblers on either side of the road. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Swainson’s, the brush was so thick that despite the close proximity, no one got a look.

Bachmans Sparrow.  Photo by Mike Conway.

Bachmans Sparrow. Photo by Mike Conway.

Our species list stands at 94. In addition to the “Most Unusual Sighting Award” mentioned above, I would like to hand out the “Dr. Doolittle Award.” Although we enjoyed David Doolittle’s company, the award is not for him! No, the “Dr. Doolittle” award goes to Kitty Jensen for her ability to speak with female Boat-tailed Grackles. Kitty would not divulge the subject of her conversations but assured me that they were most enjoyable. The trip was a big success and I look forward to the next outing.

Additional photos from the trip can be viewed in the Forsyth Audubon photo gallery http://www.forsythaudubon.org/Birds/PhotoGallery.aspx.  Select “Audubon Spring Trip 2014.”



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By Ron Morris, Bird Count Compiler

The Spring Bird Count is one of the Forsyth Audubon’s two biggest birding events of the year. The Christmas Bird Count gets more notoriety because it’s a part of National Audubon Society’s 114 year tradition. But the spring count is arguably the more exciting because it is timed to coincide with the return of many migrating birds and so far more bird species are seen then instead of the dead of winter.

We enjoyed a very successful Spring Bird Count on May 3rd despite fielding just 48 participants compared to last year’s 57 – the highest number in the state’s 22 counts.

Bobolinks were found in a new location this year. Many Forsyth birders enjoyed seeing them at the easily accessible Research Parkway.  Photo by Nathan Gatto.

Bobolinks were found in a new location this year. Many Forsyth birders enjoyed seeing them at the easily accessible Research Parkway.  Photo by Nathan Gatto.

This year, we tallied 5502 individuals of 134 species, just off last year’s 5877 individuals of 136 species.  It was a lovely day with temperatures of 52 to 75 degrees, partly cloudy skies and light winds.  Thirteen teams cover different parts of the county and each count territory has its own unique characteristics, thus its own opportunities for exciting birds.  Here are some of the highlights of the day. (Records are for 1992 – 2014)

Salem Lake is the best habitat for aquatic birds and its team found several waterfowl not seen elsewhere on this day. A Pied-billed Grebe, Ruddy Duck and two Ring-billed Ducks were among a few typical winter residents that have usually headed north by this date.

Cynthia Donaldson’s team covers the northern part of the county, including the landfill. Not the kind of place most people would expect to attract birds, its expanse of grassland often hosts some interesting birds. This year, they included a Northern Harrier and 8 Grasshopper Sparrows.  They were excited to find a male Wilson’s Warbler in the wooded edge of the landfill when scouting the day before the count.  The bird cooperated by showing up again on count day.

Wilson's Warbler at Hanes Mill Road landfill.  Photo by David Disher.

Wilson’s Warbler at Hanes Mill Road landfill. Photo by David Disher.

Reynolda Gardens had the most notable sighting of the count – an Olive-sided Flycatcher. This birds is fairly regular at Lake Katharine during both spring and fall migration, but this was the first ever on our spring survey.

Olive-sided Flycatcher at Reynolda Gardens.  Photo by Nathan Gatto.

Olive-sided Flycatcher at Reynolda Gardens. Photo by Nathan Gatto.

A Bald Eagle in its fourth-year was seen at Tanglewood Park. The estimated age of the bird is based on plumage. This one had a completely white head, but its underparts were mottled, not the solid brown of an adult, and its tail was not pure white. This was only the second eagle for a spring count, following last year’s first sighting.

Two Rusty Blackbirds seen by the Bethabara team were the first on a spring survey since 2008.

Barred Owl numbers have grown slowly but steadily in recent years. We have averaged 2-3 per count for 20 years, but found 10 of them this year, with one or more on 6 of the 13 areas surveyed.

Several species were found in significantly higher than average numbers. The following numbers represent this year vs the 20 year average:

Double-crested Cormorants 58 vs 11
Turkey Vultures 115 vs 36
Black Vultures 52 vs 6
Red-eyed Vireos 105 vs 67
White-eyed Vireos 21 vs 7
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers 105 vs 41
American Robins 669 vs 444
Gray Catbirds 94 vs 57
Ovenbirds 23 vs 9

White-eyed Vireo observed on count day. Photo by Nathan Gatto.

White-eyed Vireo observed on count day. Photo by Nathan Gatto.

Much lower than average numbers of Chimney Swifts and Cedar Waxwings were found this year. Swifts numbered 58 whereas they average 196.  Just 89 waxings were counted in contrast to the yearly average of 228.

Warblers were well represented with 28 species, including Blue-winged, Kentucky and Wilson’s.

Eleven count week species included a pair of Dickcissels that stayed around for over a week.

Dickcissel at Research Parkway.  Photo by Nathan Gatto.

Dickcissel at Research Parkway. Photo by Nathan Gatto.

Many thanks to all the participants:

Mary Franklin Blackburn, Kim Brand, Becky Clark, Nita Colvin, Mike Conway, Phil Crisp, Carol Cunningham, Larry Davis, Linda Davis, Phil Dickinson, David Disher, Susan Disher, Cynthia Donaldson, Kerry Eckhardt, Susan Fulton, Nathan Gatto, Carol Gearhart, Bill Gifford, Elnora Gore, John Haire, Sven Halling, Bill Hammond, Elaine Hammond, John Hammond, Susan Hammond, Marbry Hopkins, Royce Hough, Norma-May Isakow, Bill Jackson, Camille Jones, Jim Martin, Craig McCleary, Laura McGowen, Theresa McGowen, Tom McKay, Ron Morris, Ann Newsome, Meline Price, Jeremy Reiskind, Rob Rogers, Shelley Rutkin, Gene Schepker, Miles Silman, Ann Stupka, Bill Sugg, Chuck Thompson, Cindy Thompson, Maulik Trivedi, Gray Tuttle.


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