The 119th CBC in North Carolina consisted of 53 counts, setting a new record number for the state. Compared to last year, temperatures were much warmer on average across the state with 20 counts having highs 60F and above! Only six counts had morning lows at or below freezing, and none had temps below 25F! Snow was on the ground on just three counts and only two counts had partially frozen waters. Heavy rain was a problem on a handful of counts (Falls Lake, Grandfather Mountain, Greensboro, Mount Jefferson, and Rocky Mount), and fog was an issue at Henderson County and Wayne County. During this year’s count 828,389 individuals of 222 species, one form (Ipswich Sparrow), and one count-week bird (Cape May Warbler) were reported. Top coastal species totals included Wilmington’s 166, Morehead City’s 158, Southport’s 154, Bodie-Pea’s 131, and Holly Shelter’s 130. Tidewater counts were led by Lake Mattamuskeet’s 134, Pamlico County’s 111, New Bern’s 104, and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge’s (ARNWR) 97. Coastal Plain counts were led by Pettigrew with 108, Greenville with 101, Rocky Mount with 100, and Cumberland County with 84. Leading Piedmont counts had totals of 102 at S. Lake Norman, 101 at Raleigh, 98 at Jordan Lake, and 95 at Durham and Kerr Lake. Mountains counts were led by Henderson County’s 86, Brevard’s 77, Buncombe County’s 74, Balsam’s 66, and Franklin’s 63.
Only one Greater White-fronted Goose was noted this year, surprisingly in the mountains on the Balsam count. Numbers of Snow Geese remained steady to last year and only three Ross’s Geese were found (Bodie-Pea, Pettigrew, Wilmington). Numbers of Tundra Swans were slightly down from last year, but one Trumpeter Swan was detected at Pettigrew! Puddle duck numbers were substantially down from last year’s record numbers. The Eurasian Wigeon at Bodie-Pea was the only one noted this year. Diving duck numbers were similar to last year while mergansers were definitely down. A Black Scoter at Raleigh was a good find for an inland count. A total of nine Common Eiders was a little above average. After last year’s modest increase in Northern Bobwhite numbers, this year this species was back to reality with only 32 statewide, half of last season’s 61. Loon numbers were similar to last year, but only one Pacific was found, that being on the Holly Shelter count. Also noteworthy was the Red-throated Loon at Kerr Lake. Grebe numbers were stable, but only one Red-necked was noted, that being on the Cape Hatteras count. American White Pelicans were seriously down with a total of 13 being found. Long-legged wader numbers were mostly average, compared to previous seasons. Rare was the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron found on the Wilmington count, and a count-first Black-crowned Night-Heron at Roanoke Rapids was quite noteworthy. Bird of prey totals were similar to last year with the exception of Osprey. Only one was noted, surprisingly after last year’s record tally of 61! Two Golden Eagles were noted with singles at Lake Mattamuskeet and New River. A Northern Goshawk was adequately described on the Pamlico count, providing one of the very few sightings on a North Carolina count. A rare occurrence was the actual sighting of a Black Rail on the Bodie-Pea count! Nine Sandhill Cranes were reported with two at Morehead, three at Pettigrew, and four at Rocky Mount. Shorebird numbers rebounded somewhat from last year. Only five Piping Plovers were found this year, a drastic reduction in numbers from last year. A total of 154 Red Knots was considerably better than last year’s 65. The number (5) of Parasitic Jaegers seen from shore was about average for a count season. Razorbills were much in evidence this year at Cape Hatteras with 374 noted, a precursor to the large irruption along the Outer Banks in January. Gull numbers were similar to last season, and single Glaucous Gulls at Bodie-Pea and Southern Lake Norman were the only white-winged gulls reported. The Southern Lake Norman bird provided a very rare far-inland record. The most amazing report this count season was the total of 89 Black-legged Kittiwakes counted passing the Point at Cape Hatteras. This was easily a record count for the species in North Carolina! Lesser Black-backed Gull numbers were up again, with an impressive 848 (500 at Cape Hatteras alone). Two Sandwich Terns were reported from the Holly Shelter count, but without details.
Eurasian Collared-Dove numbers decreased slightly again from the previous year. Rare owls included a Short-eared at Cumberland County and single Northern Saw-whets at Rockingham County and the Fort Fisher area of Southport. Wintering Ruby-throated Hummingbird numbers were down slightly from last year, and there was only one Rufous (Cape Hatteras) identified. One of the rarest birds found during this year’s count season was the Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird at Fort Fisher during the Southport Count. No vocalizations were heard during the brief observation period, so the species pair is as far as the identification could go. Red-breasted Nuthatches were in good supply this season with almost all counts reporting them statewide! Cedar Waxwing numbers were down considerably from last season, with fewer roaming flocks being reported. One Lapland Longspur was noted, that being on the Henderson County count. Warbler highlights this count season included a Northern Waterthrush at Cape Hatteras, a Nashville Warbler at Wayne County, and a count-week Cape May Warbler at Wilmington. Two Lark Sparrows were noted with singles at Lake Mattamuskeet and Wayne County. The Wilmington Summer Tanager returned for the 10th winter! Western Tanagers were found several times with individuals on the Holly Shelter, Pettigrew, and Wilmington counts. Very good finds on Christmas Bird Counts were the well-described Rose-breasted Grosbeak at Alamance County and the Indigo Bunting at Bodie-Pea. 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. Eight Brewer’s Blackbirds on the Lake Mattamuskeet count were at the known wintering site. Wintering Baltimore Oriole numbers rebounded with a total of 88 on 17 counts. Purple Finch and Pine Siskin numbers were up, as this was a good irruption year. No Red Crossbills were reported, and Evening Grosbeaks finally got into the state, albeit sparingly. Singles were found at Durham and Hanging Rock.