The 115th CBC in North Carolina

The 115th CBC in North Carolina consisted of 51 counts, like last year; with one new count at Yancey County and one, Lake Lure, not being conducted. Temperatures were slightly above average across the state, and light snow was recorded on only four counts. Heavy rain was a problem on only three counts (esp. Lake Mattamuskeet) and high winds made counting difficult at Alligator River, Ocracoke, and Portsmouth Island. During this year’s count 955,622 individuals of 221 species, three forms, and three count-week birds were reported – down slightly from last year’s 225. Top coastal species totals included Morehead City’s 166, Wilmington’s 162, Southport's 155, Bodie-Pea's 149, and Cape Hatteras’ excellent 142. Tidewater counts were led by Lake Mattamuskeet’s 144, Pamlico County’s 117, New Bern’s 115, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge’s (ARNWR) 113, and Pettigrew’s 110. Coastal Plain counts were led by Greenville with 105, Rocky Mount with 91, Cumberland County with 89, and Roanoke Rapids also with 89. Leading Piedmont counts had totals of 101 at S. Lake Norman, 99 at Kerr Lake, 97 at Raleigh, 95 at Jordan Lake and Durham, 94 at Chapel Hill, and 93 at Gastonia. Mountains counts were led by Henderson County’s 86, Buncombe County's excellent 80, Brevard’s 75, and Balsam's 68.

Waterfowl numbers were somewhat down, when compared to last year. Highlights included two Greater White-fronted Geese at the Pungo Unit on the Pettigrew Count.   Snow Goose numbers were healthy as ever at the usual Pettigrew, Mattamuskeet, and Bodie-Pea counts, but Ross’s Goose numbers increased again from the previous count-season total. Thirty-two were noted with Pettigrew’s 24 leading the way; others included five at Bodie-Pea, two at Mattamuskeet, and one at Durham. Cackling Geese were noted in the western part of the state with an impressive flock of nine at Winston-Salem and a count-week bird at Brevard. A Mute Swan was most unusual on the Pettigrew Count, while overall numbers of Tundra Swans were down from last year. Puddle duck numbers were more or less average but two Eurasian Wigeons were found again at Lake Mattamuskeet. A Mottled Duck was again noted at the Fort Fisher Aquarium pond during the Southport Count. Reports of this species in North Carolina are slowly but surely increasing. Green-winged Teal numbers rebounded from last year’s rather low totals, and included one individual of the Eurasian “Common” Teal. Diving duck numbers were comparable to last year, highlighted by another record total of 20,943 for Redhead, with Bodie-Pea’s 11,000, Ocracoke’s 6000, Portsmouth’s 1600+, Cape Hatteras’ almost 1400, and Morehead City’s 762, being most impressive. Only one Harlequin Duck was found, that being a totally out-of-place bird located on the Fort Fisher Aquarium pond (!) on the Southport Count. Pettigrew’s wintering Common Merganser flock on Lake Phelps revealed a most impressive total of 881 birds this year. A Ruffed Grouse was a good find on the new Yancey County count; while Northern Bobwhites increased from last year’s dismal totals, due to ARNWR’s impressive count of 55 birds! One Pacific Loon was found, on the Kerr Lake count, and probably was a returning wintering bird noted in years past. Horned Grebe numbers were up this year, but only average numbers of Red-neckeds (4) and Eareds (2) were noted. Gannet totals increased from last year, but a total of 20 American White Pelicans (17 at Bodie-Pea and 3 at Mattamuskeet) was way down, reversing the trend from the last several years. Long-legged wader numbers were mostly average with a couple of exceptions.  Snowy Egrets increased substantially while Little Blue Herons decreased considerably. Also the six different Green Herons was a good total, with singles inland at Cumberland County and Rocky Mount being noteworthy. The best bird of the Count was a White-faced Ibis found at Mattamuskeet. Providing a first NC CBC record, this bird was actually not as big a surprise as one might think – the species has been noted at that Refuge several times in the last couple of years, usually in the Spring Season. Bird of prey numbers were down and the only highlight was the Rough-legged Hawk found in the Mountains on the New River Count. The only Sandhill Cranes reported were the two regular wintering birds in the Beaufort area of the Morehead City Count.  Shorebird highlights included a good total of 41 Piping Plovers on five counts, 27 American Avocets on the Morehead City Count, and a very good total of 1672 Red Knots on seven counts (1200+ on Ocracoke being most impressive). Lesser Black-backed Gulls were noticeably down from last year, in spite of the total of 382 at Cape Hatteras! Only one “white-winged” gull was found, which was a count-week Glaucous at Cape Hatteras. A Pomarine Jaeger was a good find on the Holly Shelter Count, but the total of 18 Parasitic Jaegers on four counts was impressive (the 13 on the Southport Count being quite noteworthy). Razorbill numbers were way down with a total of 10 from two counts (6 at Cape Hatteras, 4 at Southport).

Owl numbers were generally up, except for only one Short-eared being noted at the usual ARNWR location. Five Northern Saw-whets were found including three on the Bodie-Pea Count and singles at Cape Hatters and Hanging Rock. Hummingbird numbers were down somewhat this year, when compared to last year. Still the majority of Ruby-throateds are found along the Coast, and Selasphorus types generally are spread across the state. No rare flycatchers were found during the CBC period this year – in stark contrast to the last 10+ years! Not sure what to make of that! Tree Swallow numbers were down considerably from last year with some counts struggling to find any where they have been regular in the past. Red-breasted Nuthatches were still in much reduced numbers from the major flight of two years ago, with only 49 from 14 counts. Wren and kinglet numbers were near normal, as were Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Single gnatcatchers at Charlotte, Gastonia, and Winston-Salem were noteworthy for being so far inland. Only two Lapland Longspurs were noted this season (on the Camp Lejeune Count and count-week at Cape Hatteras); and only four Snow Buntings were noted, these being at Cape Hatteras.

Warbler highlights this count season included a Northern Parula at Alligator River, a Yellow Warbler at Mattamuskeet, an amazing immature Chestnut-sided Warbler at Chapel Hill, and a very noteworthy adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler at Kitty Hawk. The latter two were photographed and thus were well-documented. There is only one previous Chestnut-sided (Raleigh, 99th Count) and 10 previous Black-throated Blues for the NC CBC. The Summer Tanager at Wilmington returned for the 6th year, but again was only noted count week. Much more unusual was the Scarlet Tanager found on the Balsam Count. This was only the third Scarlet Tanager reported for the NC CBC, with the most recent one being noted at ARNWR on the 105th Count. Sparrow highlights included a Lark Sparrow at Pettigrew, a count-week Lark Sparrow far inland at Stone Mountain, one Henslow’s Sparrow at Holly Shelter, a Le Conte's Sparrow at Greenville, a Lincoln's Sparrow in the Mountains on the Brevard count (rare that far from the Coastal Plain), and two Lincoln’s on the Chapel Hill Count. Wintering Painted Bunting numbers were down for the fourth year in a row, with two on the Southport Count and count-week at Morehead City. Rusty Blackbird numbers were down considerably with the best total being 146 at Henderson County. A Brewer’s Blackbird was a good find on the Southport count. Baltimore Oriole numbers were down slightly from last year and the best count was the 21 at Wilmington. Finch numbers were up this winter, especially after last year’s low totals. Purple Finches (256 on 31 counts) and Pine Siskins (2597 on 44 counts) made quite a showing across the state. And finally Red Crossbills and Evening Grosbeaks were no-shows for the NC CBC this season.

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