Thursday, January 18, 2018

Carters Lake Christmas Bird Count Summary - December 30, 2017

                                                                    GACL circle

The 118th Christmas Bird Count season brought with it the eleventh annual Carters Lake CBC. It was conducted on December 30, 2017. Twenty-six volunteer birders traveled a combined 490.3 miles and reported a total of 10,291 individual birds. There was a combined total of 97.5 party hours in the field. 


Weather plays one of the most major roles in any kind of field work. Our bird count has had a few instances were wind, freezing temperatures and precipitation has significantly impacted our survey efforts as well as the behavior of the birds. This year was free of any precipitation. At dawn the temps were in the mid-twenties. The sky being partly overcast caused this cold to hang on throughout the morning hours. At mid-day the wind did get up to velocities of 10mph but decreased in the afternoon. This is when the clouds broke open to allow the sun to heat things up to temperatures in the high forties. This made for excellent surveying conditions and teams enjoyed several hours of prime counting weather. Overall, it was decent conditions with the only obstacle being the early cold which is not too uncommon for this region. 


A Christmas Bird Count circle is fifteen miles in diameter(see map above). The area within is separated into sections and assigned to teams to be covered during a 24 hour
period. The surveying effort is conducted mostly by roadside, though there are a number of agencies and private land owners who give us access to properties. Below is the
list of this year's teams in alphabetical order, beginning with the team's leader.

Team 1 - Carters Lake Bill Lotz, Bob Henderson
Team 2 - Coosawattee WMA - Charlie Muise, Tracey Muise, Allan Muise 
Team 3 - Dews Pond -  Chris Lambrecht, Bob Babcock 
Team 4 - Fite Bend -  Joshua Spence, Theresa Spence, Lucrecia Vizcaino, Terri Wilhelm (7:40am-10:40am)    
               Fite Bend (evening ~ 3:30pm - 6:00pm) - Johnnie Greene, Max Medley & co.
Team 5 - Fox Bridge - Joshua Spence, Theresa Spence, Lucrecia Vizcaino, Terri Wilhelm
(11:00am - 12:30pm)
Team 6 - New Echota Johnnie Greene, Max Medley (7:15am - 3:00pm)
Team 7 - NickelsvilleRebecca Byrd,  Henning von Schmeling
Team 8 - Holly Creek Marsh J. Spence, Theresa Spence, Lucrecia Vizcaino, Terri Wilhelm
(12:35pm - 2:40pm)
Team 9 - Pine Chapel - Dan Vickers, Kris Bisgard, Patrick Maurice
Team 10 - Ranger -  Sandy Pangle, Toni Bowen, Rich Hull, JoAnn King
Team 11 - Salacoa Creek - Joel McNeal, Brandy Rogers
Team 12 - Taylortown -  Stephen Stewart, Ann Stewart
Early Owling Effort - Joshua Spence, Theresa Spence (3:30 am-5:30am)                                                                                                                                                                                  
                                                              Bob Babcock 
There was a total of 103 species reported on count dayAnnual birds marked with an asterisk*.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
A single GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was observed by Team 4 at Fite Bend. This is only the third time that this goose has made an appearance on count-day.
CANADA GOOSE numbers were below average with 246 reported. This is about 57 less than the 10 year average(10ya).*
Five teams reported a total of 69 WOOD DUCKS. This is well above the 10ya of 33. This is the first time in three years that this species has been reported in double digits. Team 7 found the majority of these(46). The other 23 were shared between teams 6, 9, 10 and 11.*
GADWALL, one of our annual ducks on the count, was observed in above average numbers, 91 in all. Team 8 observed at least 64 individuals in a cattail marsh. Teams 7 and 9 shared the remainder. *
5 AMERICAN WIGEON were reported by Team 8 from the same marsh mentioned above. This species is not a common wintering bird within the circle. This is only the sixth time that it has been observed on count day. The 10ya is less than three. 
83 MALLARDS were reported, which is slightly above their 10ya of 80. These were reported from eight sections.*
Blue-winged Teal made its fourth appearance on the count with a whopping total of 16 birds! This indeed establishes a new high count for this duck. Fifteen of these were reported by Team 7 from some flooded bottomlands and Team 12 reported a single bird near White Graves. 
Teams 4 & 9 reported the only NORTHERN SHOVELERS of the day with a low total of four birds.  The 10ya is 12.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
                                                      Northern Pintail - Dan Vickers
Northern Pintail made its sixth appearance on the count(4 count-day & 2 count-week) in the highest numbers yet.  Twelve birds were reported. Team 7 counted nine of these and Team 9 had three.
Teams 7 & 9 also shared the only GREEN-WINGED TEAL of the day. Eleven in all, which was slightly higher than the 10ya of 8.  
The RING-NECKED DUCK is our only annual bay duck. After last year's dismal count of only two birds, a total of 46 were found this go around. Team 9 reported 43 of these and Team 7 had three. This was still below the 10ya of 81. *
Team 2 found the only Aythya species of the day, in four individuals on the Coosawattee route.
After four consecutive years of single digit totals, the HOODED MERGANSER finally came in with a decent count of 14 birds. Team 10 found five along the Ranger route. Teams 7(4), 9(3) & 12(2) shared the rest. The 10ya is 17 for this annual merganser. *
After a five-year absence, the RED-BREASTED MERGANSER made an appearance with two drakes at Carters Lake (Team 1).
This was the second best showing for WILD TURKEY since the count's beginning. Forty-eight birds were shared among four teams. Team 7 found 31 of these on the Nickelsville route. The 10ya is 25.*
For the fourth consecutive year, PIED-BILLED GREBES have been found in single digits. Nine birds were shared among five teams. Team 12 had the largest concentration with four individuals. The 10ya is 12.*
Team 1 observed six HORNED GREBES at Carters Lake. This is the sixth time that this species has been present on count-day and each time they have been found at the same site. The 10ya is 4. 
Team 1 also found the only DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS of the day. Two were found this year at Carters Lake. This is average for this species. 
GREAT BLUE HERONS were found in great numbers this year. The total of 34 actually tied the high count for this species. This record was set during the 113th count season (1/05/2013). These thirty-four birds were  shared between eight teams. Team 9 reported the highest concentration of these with a total of ten.*
Though 76 BLACK VULTURES is below average for this circle, it is still a strong representation of this species for the region. Teams 7 and 11 reported the majority of these.*
TURKEY VULTURES established a new low count for the circle with 123 reported individuals. This is only five birds below last year's total.*
After missing NORTHERN HARRIER last season, this year's total of nine birds was a welcomed addition to the day. This is only three less than the record high count of 12. These birds were shared among Team 2 (3), Team 4 (3), Team 9 (2), and Team 12 (1). 
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK established a new record high with five birds being reported from Team 3 (1), Team 7 (2) & Team 9 (2). 
There were eight COOPER'S HAWKS reported from six sections. Teams 3 observed a total of three birds along the Dews Pond route.*
It was another great year for BALD EAGLES. Three teams observed four individuals (Teams 1, 2 & 11). Two were observed at Carters Lake where this species has nested for decades. This is the third best count for this species, the record high count is seven.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
                                            juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk - Joshua Spence
RED-SHOULDERED HAWK(37) was observed in above average numbers and were  reported from every section. Highest concentrations were from the Nickelsville(8) and Coosawattee(7) routes.*   
RED-TAILED HAWK, ironically tied the record high of 56,  which was established during the 113th season on January 5th, 2013. This year's highest concentrations came from Team 2(11) and Team 12(11).
Only singles for both VIRGINIA RAIL & SORA this time. Both were heard at the Holly Creek marsh by Team 8. The high winds and excessive man-made noise most likely contributed to the low total for these species. These tie the low counts for both birds. 
AMERICAN COOT continued the trend of being one of the most difficult, yet "expected" species to observe on this count. Team 7 found two and Team 9 found one. The total of three is average for this species in the circle where it is not even annual!
For the last two years, the count has fallen on days with excellent conditions for SANDHILL CRANE passage. This year was the complete opposite! Only 29 birds were reported! This is quite a bit less than the average of 836! Still, this is not the record low and is actually only the third lowest. Teams 4 and 9 reported the only groups this year, while Teams 8 & 11 heard some in the distance.  
KILLDEER were observed in the decent, though below average number of 200. This was much better than last year's all-time low of 49. These were reported from eight differensections. Team 4 found most of these at the Fite Bend fields.*
GREATER YELLOWLEGS made its first appearance on the count! Two individuals were observed at the Fite Bend ephemeral pool by the evening team(Greene, Medley). This is one of the few winter records for this species in north GA's mountain region and appears to be only the second CBC record from this region. 
37 WILSON'S SNIPE were reported from three sections. Greene/Medley counted 23 at the aforementioned Fite Bend pool. Team 9 observed 13 along the Pine Chapel route and Team 2 had a single bird. Even though this year's total is a decent number, it was below the 10ya of 60.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
                                                                       American Woodcock - Dan Vickers              
After last year's low count of one AMERICAN WOODCOCK, participants returned this season to make a special effort to strategically survey for this species in scouted areas. Eight teams(both dawn & dusk) reported a total of 55 individuals which establishes a new high count for the circle. Team 2 tallied a total of 22 birds from the Coosawattee WMA.  This CBC garners some of the highest statewide totals for this secretive bird. If it were not for its crepuscular calls and courtship displays, this species would not be annual on the count. *
The total of 170 ROCK PIGEONS reported this year is below the 10ya of 214. Most(139) were found at their usual hangout near the Fite Bend silos.* 
MOURNING DOVES were in high numbers this time around. A total of 310 individuals were reported from all sections combined. This is the fourth highest tally since the count's inception. The 10ya is 256. The highest concentration of these were along the Pine Chapel route, with 108 birds reported by Team 9. *
EASTERN SCREECH OWLS were found in below average numbers this year. Three in all from three teams. *
Four GREAT HORNED OWLS were reported this year by Team 2. 
Six BARRED OWLS were reported this time from five teams. This is only one less than our record high count of seven. 
Another species that tallied a total that was only one less than its all-time high was the BELTED KINGFISHER. Sixteen of these were observed on seven different routes. The highest concentrations were from the Carters Lake section(4) and the Ranger section(3).*  
RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were very active this time. Seven teams reported a total of 22 birds! This is well above the 10ya of eleven. Team 9 reported the highest concentration of these(6) along the Pine Chapel route. *                                                           
This year's count of 115 RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS was above the 10ya of 96. Team 3(22) and Team 7(27) had high concentrations of these along their routes.*
YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS (21 total) were found in numbers below the 10ya of 28. Team 6 had five along the New Echota route.*
38 DOWNY WOODPECKERS were observed this year, which is below the 10ya of 47. Team 7 had the highest concentration with nine.*
Eight HAIRY WOODPECKERS were reported from five sections. This is slightly below average. Team 11 counted four of these along the Salacoa Creek section.*
NORTHERN FLICKERS were reported in numbers just slightly below the 10ya of 63. There was a total of 60 birds reported from all sections. Teams 12 observed 12 individuals from the Taylortown route, while Team 3 had 10 in the Dews Pond section.* 
PILEATED WOODPECKERS came in at an average number of 20, reported from ten sections.*
This year's 25 AMERICAN KESTRELS  were above average, and only two below the high count of 27 that was set during the 111th CBC season(12/23/2010). These were reported from eight different sections. Team 9 reported nine birds from the Pine Chapel route.*
Three MERLINS were counted which ties with the record high that was established during the first season of the Carters Lake CBC(1/5/2008).  These were observed along the Coosawattee, Pine Chapel and Fite Bend routes. This is our sixth record for this uncommon falcon.  
EASTERN PHOEBES were observed in the highest numbers since the count's inception, breaking the former record by fourteen individuals. A total of 83 were reported from all sections. Teams 7, 9 and 11 tallied double-digits along their routes.*
Two LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES were observed this year, which is average for the circle. Team 7 found one along the Nickelsville route and the other was observed along the Pine Chapel route by Team 9.*
This year's total of 235 BLUE JAYS is below the 10ya of 28845 of these were counted along the Dews Pond route by Team 3.*
Crow numbers were a little more tricky to assess than usual. This is mainly due to a large murder of Fish Crows that appears to have traveled north in a single flock to later join with a separate murder of American Crows. Then there was a possibility that this larger group may have moved to other locals in the circle. Four different teams collaborated to come to a conclusion concerning the number of these corvids. (Teams 2,10, 11 and 12.)
AMERICAN CROWS were reported in below average numbers, at 494. The 10ya is 691.*
64 FISH CROWS were reported this year! This is the seventh time that this species has shown up on count day. Consequently, this total shattered the former record high of fourteen that was established during the 113th season (1/05/2013). Team 12 observed a flock of at least sixty birds flying north. It is possible that these were coming from the landfill. This is a very high number for winter in northwest GA. It will be interesting to see if this is a trend.
121 crow spp. were unable to be accurately identified due to the presence of both Fish and American Crows. Team 2.  
CAROLINA CHICKADEES were observed in slightly above average numbers, 183 in all. The 10ya is 175.*
In contrast the TUFTED TITMOUSE  was reported in slightly below average numbers this year, 118 in all. The 10ya is 126.*
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES (24 total) were observed in slightly lower numbers than expected. The 10ya is 29. *
BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCHES (60 total) were also found in slightly below average numbers. The 10ya is 62. Team 2 reported 26 from the Coosawattee section. *
The Seven BROWN CREEPERS reported is slightly above average. These were shared among Team 1(1), Team 2(3) and Team 11(3). *
HOUSE WRENS tied the record high count of 16 which was set during the 114th CBC season(12/21/2013). These were tallied among eight teams. The 10ya is 5.
WINTER WRENS were also found in good numbers. A total of 24 were reported from seven teams.  This is only four below the record high of 28. The 10ya is 14. Team 2 led the way with seven birds observed along the Coosawattee route. 
                                                                                                                                            Team 2 found the only SEDGE WRENS for the day. They had three, which is the most that have ever been observed on count-day. This is only the fifth time that this secretive songbird has made an appearance on the count. 
CAROLINA WRENS were found in slightly above average numbers at 159 individuals. The 10ya is 156. Team 3 reported the highest concentration of these, 26.*                                   
This year's 146 GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS were above the 10ya of 95. Teams 2 reported the highest number of these from the Coosawattee section, 37. Team 11 reported the second highest concentration from the Salacoa Creek route, 31.*                                     
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS were also reported in higher than average numbers, 131 in all. This is the second highest total since the count's inception. The record high count is 149. Team 7 had the highest concentration of this species at 20 birds. *
This count has produced high numbers of EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, and this year's 244 is a great total, but is still lower than the 10ya of 287. *
HERMIT THRUSH was found in good numbers. This year's 49 reported birds is the second highest tally since the beginning of the count. Team 9 reported the highest concentration of birds along the PIne Chapel route, ten. *                                                                                   
Large flocks of AMERICAN ROBINS were mostly absent this year. 323 birds were reported from nine sections. This isn't even half of the 10ya of 763. Team 2 found the highest concentration of robins along the Coosawattee route, 119. *
Team 9 observed a GRAY CATBIRD in the Pine Chapel section. This is only the third time that this species has been located on this count. 
BROWN THRASHERS were found in high numbers this time. In fact, it is the second highest count for this species. 42 birds reported. Team 7 reported 16 along the Nickelsville route.*
After establishing a new high count last year, the NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD came in with below average numbers this season. This year's 102 birds is the fourth lowest since the count's inception. Team 9 found the highest concentration of these along the Pine Chapel route, 21 in all.*
593 EUROPEAN STARLINGS were reported. 10ya is 2657.*
There were 113 AMERICAN PIPITS reported this year, which is only the second time that this species has broke into triple digits on the count. The 10ya is 56. These were shared between Teams 2(25), 4(32), & 11(56).*
CEDAR WAXWINGS were practically MIA this year. Only 104 birds were reported from five sections. This is the second lowest total for this species since the count's beginning. The 10ya is 556. *
Team 7 found a single ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER. This is the fourth time that this species has made an appearance on the count. 
Team 9 reported a single COMMON YELLOWTHROAT along the Pine Chapel route. This is only the fourth time that this species has been observed on the count. 
This year's 23 PALM WARBLERS establishes a new high count for this species. This broke the former record of 20 that was set during the 112th season(12/29/2011). These were reported from five sections. Team 7 observed eight of these and Team 4 observed 7.*
PINE WARBLERS also established a new high count. 37 individuals were reported from six teams. This broke the old record of 31 that had reigned since the 110th CBC season(12/22/2009). Team 10 counted 16 birds along the Ranger route. *
There were 173 YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS reported, which is the highest total over the last eight years. This is the second highest number since the count started. The highest concentration of birds was found at the New Echota Historic Site where Team 6 found at least 60 birds. There was also good numbers from the Coosawattee route(26) and Ranger section(39).*
The 797 CHIPPING SPARROWS reported were the second highest total since the count's inception. Good numbers were reported from nine sections. Team 2 led the way with 350 birds reported. *
This is the second consecutive year that FIELD SPARROW has fallen below triple digits. Only 84 birds were reported from nine sections. This isn't quite as dismal as last year's 69, but the 10ya is 142.*
A total of 20 FOX SPARROWS were reported from five separate teams. As usual, most(9) were found by Team 2 in the Coosawattee WMA. The 10ya is 31.*
For the second year DARK-EYED JUNCO failed to reach triple digits and actually dipped even lower to establish a new low count for the circle. Only 49 individuals were reported from seven sections. The 10ya for this species is 116. *
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS were found in below average numbers, 20 in all. This is only one bird higher than the all-time low. The key areas where this species usually congregates did not have the high numbers this year. These birds were shared among four sections. Teams 4, 9, 11 and 12. The 10ya is 49.*
This year's 247 WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were well below the 10ya of 325. Leading the way was Team 7(74) and Team 12(52).
Seven VESPER SPARROWS were tallied for the count by three teams. Team 2(3), Team 4(1) and Team 9(3) found these.  This is slightly below the average of 8.*
The SAVANNAH SPARROW numbers were back up to triple digits after last year's poor showing of 94. This year's 153 was still slightly below the 10ya of 169.  These were reported from seven sections. The highest concentration was 65 from the Fite Bend fields.*
SONG SPARROW (318) numbers were below the 10ya of 354.*
SWAMP SPARROW (185) came in with above average numbers in the third best showing since the count's beginning.*
EASTERN TOWHEES were also reported in their third highest showing, 177 in all. The 10ya is 125. *
The 255 NORTHERN CARDINALS observed this year were slightly below average. The 10ya is 331. *                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
                                                            Blue Grosbeak - Dan Vickers
The biggest surprise of the day was a rare wintering BLUE GROSBEAK found by Team 9 on the Pine Chapel route. This bird represents one of the few wintering GA records, which appears to be less than ten. Apparently, there are five prior CBC records, three from the 1960s, one from the 1980s and the last one was from 1997. There are seven winter records mentioned in the Annotated Checklist of GA, four of which are of the CBC records just referenced above. The only eBird record is from Emanuel County in 2010.  The only other GA mountain winter record is from Rome on December 30, 1962, which also was a CBC record. This is only the second known winter record for the mountain region.                          
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD came in at 1384 individuals! This is quite a bit lower than the 10ya of 3080! These were shared between eight teams. The largest concentration was on the Coosawattee route. *
EASTERN MEADOWLARK (207) numbers were above the 10ya of 185. *
Only ten RUSTY BLACKBIRDS were reported this year. These were shared among Teams 4, 7, and 10. This is well below the 10ya of 56. 
COMMON GRACKLES were basically non existent this time. The 10ya for this species is 20,312, which consequently is the highest average of any species on the count. Imagine the surprise when four teams reported a total of 202 individuals!*
Only three BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS were reported this season. This ties the low count for this species. The 10ya is 75. 
The 62 HOUSE FINCHES that were reported are only one bird less than the high count that was established last year. *                                                                                                        
After last year's record high for PURPLE FINCHES, this year's low showing of only three individuals was quite the contrast. These were reported by Team 10.
Teams 1, 2 and 10 found the day's only PINE SISKINS, eight in all. This is slightly below average, but totally the norm for this inconsistent winter visitor.
AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES were found in the highest numbers since the count's beginning. 255 total that were reported from twelve sections. Team 1(55) and Team 12(59) had the highest concentrations of these. 
56 HOUSE SPARROWS were counted to establish a new high count.*
Five species were reported during count-week. Count-week is defined as
three days prior and three days after the actual count day. During these six days,
species that were not observed on count day can be reported to the NAS as present
within the circle. 
                                                                Snow & Ross's Geese - Joshua Spence                                                                       

Ross's Goose - Fite Bend Rd. - 12/29/2017
Snow Goose - Fite Bend Rd. - 12/29/2017
Common Goldeneye - Carters Lake - 12/27/2017
Bonaparte's Gull - Carters Lake - 12/27/2017
Ring-billed Gull - Caters Lake - 1/02/2018

The Carter's Lake CBC is located in the ridge & valley province of north GA. The fifteen mile diameter circle covers portions of southern Murray County and northeastern Gordon County. The Christmas Bird Count is a winter bird survey that stands as the longest running wildlife census. It is conducted by volunteers. The National Audubon Society has promoted the census for decades. The society and others use the data to determine the health of wild bird populations.

For more information: