The 117th CBC in North Carolina
The 117th CBC in North Carolina consisted of 52 counts; with the dormant Wayne County Count being revitalized and only one not being conducted, that being at Henderson County. Temperatures were again considerably above average across the state with 17 counts having highs in the 60’s and seven of those with highs in the 70’s. Only 21 counts had lows below freezing. Snow was a complete non-issue this year, whether falling or on the ground. Heavy rain was a problem on five counts (Durham, Greenville, Lake Mattamuskeet, Southern Lake Norman, and Southern Pines) and fog hampered the counts at Holly Shelter, Morehead City, and Roanoke Rapids. High winds made counting difficult at New River, Yancey County, Balsam, Southern Lake Norman, Durham, Southern Pines, and Holly Shelter. During this year’s count 872,508 individuals of 228 species, one form (Ipswich Sparrow), and one count-week bird (Northern Saw-whet Owl) were reported. Top coastal species totals included Wilmington’s 172, Morehead City’s 160, Southport’s 155, Holly Shelter’s 146, and Bodie-Pea's 145. Tidewater counts were led by Lake Mattamuskeet’s 143, New Bern’s 115, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge’s (ARNWR) 113, Pettigrew’s 110, and Pamlico County’s 106. Coastal Plain counts were led by Greenville with 98, Roanoke Rapids with 92, and Rocky Mount also with 92. Leading Piedmont counts had totals of 103 at Durham, 102 at Southern Lake Norman, 101 at Charlotte, 97 at Greensboro, 96 at Kerr Lake, and 95 at Chapel Hill. Mountains counts were led by Brevard’s 83, Balsam’s 78, Buncombe County’s 76, and Franklin’s 71.
Waterfowl numbers generally recovered from the previous season’s very low numbers. Greater White-fronted Geese made a good showing, being found on five counts - Pettigrew, Greenville (count week), Upper Yadkin River, Stone Mountain, and Buncombe County. Snow Geese were down slightly again but Ross’s Geese were up including one far inland at Greensboro. Numbers of Tundra Swans were very close to the previous season. One Trumpeter Swan at Lake Mattamuskeet provided the 2nd CBC record, the first being last year on the same count. This species is currently undergoing expansion in the East and should be expected in future years. Puddle duck numbers were up from last year with good finds being a Eurasian Wigeon at Mattamuskeet and a 3rd CBC Mottled Duck on the Southport count. Diving duck numbers were up also, except for scoters. Northern Bobwhites remained steady, but with a total of only 34 being reported from all the counts! Loons obviously wintered in NC in very good numbers as record CBC totals of 10,439 Red-throated and 3445 Commons were had. Two Pacific Loons were found, again from the large Common Loon flock off Wrightsville Beach on the Wilmington count. Grebe numbers were back up this year, with the 2nd highest total for Pied-billed ever being noted. Single Red-necked (Kerr Lake) and Eared grebes (Cape Hatteras) were noted. The bird of the count was the sub-adult Brown Booby seen close to the beach at Ft. Macon on the Morehead City count. This bird provided not only a first for the NC CBC, but was also the first winter report in that state! Northern Gannets were found in good numbers with slightly over 36,000 providing the 2nd highest total ever for the species. American White Pelicans were way down (35) compared to last year’s record count of 179. Long-legged wader numbers were mostly average, compared to previous seasons. Bird of prey numbers remained stable, with best birds being two Broad-winged Hawks with singles at Grandfather Mountain and Raven Rock. These birds were reported with marginal-to-poor details, and photographic evidence of this species in winter is sorely needed! Seven Sandhill Cranes were reported, with three at Pettigrew, two at Morehead City, and singles at Rocky Mount and Brevard. Shorebird numbers were slightly down again, compared to the previous year. Only one Wilson’s Plover was noted (Morehead City), while 22 Piping Plovers were found on five counts. The total of 68 Red Knots on five counts was only slightly higher than last year. Low totals included 6245 Dunlin on 10 counts, 166 Wilson’s Snipe on 25 counts, and 65 American Woodcock on 26 counts. Jaegers once again were detected off the beaches with 13 Parasitics (Wilmington 6, Kitty Hawk 4, Southport 3) three Pomarines (Wilmington 2, Southport 1) and one jaeger sp. at Southport. The only Razorbills (8) noted were at Bodie-Pea four, Southport three, and Wilmington one. Gull numbers were generally up from last season, with the most interesting total being 35,000 Ring-billeds estimated on the Jordan Lake count. The Cape Hatteras count had two Iceland and one Glaucous gull, while another Iceland inland at Greensboro was most exceptional. Lesser Black-backed Gulls continue to increase in the state with a total 710 found on 10 counts with Cape Hatteras 491 and Kitty Hawk 153 being the best counts.
Eurasian Collared-Dove continued to increase with 312 being found on 10 counts. Of interest is the impressive total of 233 at Morehead City this year! Only two Short-eared Owls were noted, at the usual ARNWR spot. One Northern Saw-whet Owl was detected this year, that being a count week bird at ARNWR. An Eastern Whip-Poor-Will (heard calling from an area where they had been found in winter in years past) was a good find on the Wilmington count. Wintering Ruby-throated Hummingbird numbers were down considerably this year, but there were four Rufous (Alamance County, Durham, Falls Lake, Raleigh) and two Selasphorus sp. noted (Brevard, Chapel Hill). Falcon numbers remained steady, compared to last year. An Ash-throated Flycatcher was noted on the Pettigrew Count, for the second year in a row. This bird provided the 11th CBC record, all since 2002! The only lingering swallows were single Barn Swallows at Mattamuskeet and count week at Pettigrew. Red-breasted Nuthatches greatly increased from last year, with 279 being noted on 38 counts. Wren and kinglet numbers increased from last year, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers totaled 36, the 5th highest NC CBC total ever. Eastern Bluebirds produced their 3rd highest total (6180) ever, but Hermit Thrush numbers remained down from a couple of years ago. Cedar Waxwing numbers were also down from last season, as the number of roaming flocks seemed fewer. The only Lapland Longspur was on the Raleigh count, a very good find for that area. Six Snow Buntings on the Bodie-Pea count were the only ones noted this season. Warbler highlights this count season included a Nashville Warbler at New Bern, an American Redstart at Mattamuskeet, providing the 6th NC CBC record, three Northern Parulas all amazingly inland at Roanoke Rapids, Chapel Hill, and Winston-Salem, a Yellow Warbler far inland at Charlotte, and five Yellow-breasted Chats (Bodie-Pea 1, Mattamuskeet 3, Wilmington 1). Sparrow highlights included a Grasshopper Sparrow far inland on the Gastonia Count, and three Clay-colored Sparrows with singles at Greenville, Pettigrew, and Pee Dee. Vesper Sparrow (7) and Lincoln’s Sparrow (4) totals were down again. The Wilmington Summer Tanager returned for its 9th winter (count week this year) and another was photographed at Charlotte providing an excellent inland record. Wintering Painted Bunting numbers fell off from last year with only two at Southport and one at Wilmington. Red-winged Blackbird numbers were up, while Grackle numbers were down, compared to last year. Rusty Blackbird totals were about the same as last year with the best total being 325 at Wilmington. Four Brewer’s Blackbirds were returning birds from last year on the Mattamuskeet count, while one on the Pee Dee count was more unusual. Baltimore Oriole numbers continue to rise with the total of 132 on 15 counts being the 4th highest ever (the highest 3 year totals were from the 1970’s)! The best counts included 28 at Wayne County and 25 at Wilmington. Purple Finch numbers were up—183 on 25 counts, and Pine Siskins were down—152 on 17 counts. Six Red Crossbills on the Buncombe County Count were noteworthy as they were the only ones reported. And Evening Grosbeaks continued to be absent during the NC CBC this season.