Posts Tagged ‘Olive-sided Flycatcher’

By Jesse Anderson, Pinnacle, NC

Well, it was an outlier of a year for the Hawk Watch at Pilot Mountain. In statistics, an outlier is a data point which differs significantly from other points of data in a given study. Historically, the average count has been about 4,500 migrants, 95% of which were Broad-winged Hawks. In 2019, Pilot Mountain’s hawk watch was presented with an outlier of a year – an all-time low for total numbers of Broad-winged Hawks during our count season – a total of under 500 migrants. Even though few passed, some stuck around long enough for a nice photo!

 A Broad-winged Hawk migrating over Pilot Mountain

A Broad-winged Hawk migrating over Pilot Mountain

At first glance, these numbers may sound frightening; however, Pilot Mountain’s hawk watch wasn’t the only “outlier” in the state. At the other end of the “outlier” spectrum was a nearby count just off the Blue Ridge Parkway where Jim Keighton at the Mahogany Rock Hawk Watch saw over 8,600 migrant raptors. The Story/Lenoir Hawk Watch had an amazing outlier of 8,200 birds in a single day, totaling over 11,000 for the year’s count! And last, but not least, the Mount Pisgah Hawk Watch totaled over 9,200 migrants for the season.

On the positive side, Forsyth Audubon and Pilot Mountain State Park held another Hawk Watch Volunteer Training, in which over 20 new prospective volunteers came to join for a wonderful event where they learned more about hawk identification, behavior, and the procedures for tracking weather data at the Little Pinnacle Overlook!

As noted by Ramona Snavely, founder of the Pilot Mountain Hawk Watch, weather is one of the most influential factors in Broad-winged Hawk migration. In her study, weather had a direct correlation with both the number and diversity of species passing Pilot Mountain. The one critical factor that typically drives high numbers of Broad-winged Hawks past Pilot Mountain is a consistent northwest wind following the passage of a cold front during optimal migration timing – something that just did not occur in a timely manner this year. We do know, whatever the timing of the particular cold front that passed, Lenoir, NC was the place to be. That’s one of the great things about hawk watching, you never know when you’ll be in the right-place-right-time!

For the dedicated volunteer, you never know when a different kind of outlier will make for a special treat, like this beautiful Olive-sided Flycatcher, which paid a visit to the Little Pinnacle for just long enough to strike a pose!

Olive-sided Flycatcher at Little Pinnacle Overlook

Olive-sided Flycatcher at Little Pinnacle Overlook

Until next year, we hope to see you out there, and ‘Keep Looking Up!’

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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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