Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Carters Lake Christmas Bird Count Summary - December 21, 2016

                            
                                                                    GACL circle



The 117th Christmas Bird Count season brought with it the ten year anniversary of the Carters Lake Christmas Bird Count. It was conducted on December 21, 2016. Thirty-one volunteer birders traveled a combined 542.4 miles and reported a total of 47,817 individual birds. Twelve teams spent a combined total of 90.25 party hours in the field. This year was in direct contrast with the previous year in that the last count took place during a period of record flooding for the Carters Lake circle, but this year's count came after one of the most severe droughts in recent history. The circle had not experienced any significant rainfall in more than three months.  It was only within the two weeks prior to the count that decent precipitation was recorded in the survey area. Many creeks and ponds had dried and a lot vegetation had been scorched.  We were curious to see how and if this would impact our overall results. It is difficult to assess how local bird populations were affected, but there is no doubt that the drought did bring many challenges to wildlife in the area.


WEATHER

Weather plays one of the most major roles in any kind of field work. Our bird count has had a few instances were wind, cold temperatures and precipitation has significantly impacted our survey efforts as well as the behavior of the birds. This was the first year that fog had blanketed the entire circle for an extended period. There were some sections that didn't have it lift until almost noon. If this wasn't enough, the morning temperatures were in the low twenties, which resulted in freezing fog. This further resulted in lower bird activity throughout the day. There were low averages for many species and this year resulted in the most "low counts" since the 115th CBC season which was the year that we experienced heavy rain throughout the day.  At this time, it is unknown to what extent this freezing fog impacted the birds, but it is appears that our numbers were down 30%. If more detailed conclusions can be drawn from the data, this information will be updated in the future. 




       Birders in Frosty Wonderland ~ Rebecca Byrd


TEAMS/PARTICIPANTS


Though the conditions for a portion of the day were not the most ideal, the teams still covered their areas thoroughly. They gleaned what they could and still submitted viable data that finished out the first ten years of the Carters Lake Christmas Bird Count in an impressive manner. 

A Christmas Bird Count circle is fifteen miles in diameter. 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, Jim Eager, Bob Henderson, Steve Monk
Team 2 - Coosawattee WMA - Charlie Muise, Tracey Muise, Allan Muise 
Team 3 - Dews Pond -  Chris Lambrecht, Bob Babcock 
Team 4 - Fite Bend - Rebecca Byrd, JoAnn King, Rich Hull, Henning von Schmeling   
Team 5 - Mashburn Pond - Joshua Spence, Theresa Spence (Duncan Beard)
Team 6 - New Echota - Johnnie Greene, Larry Stephens
Team 7 - Nickelsville - Jim Greenway & Dawn Greenway
Team 8 - Pettiet Branch Marsh -  Max Medley, Phil Riner  
Team 9 - Pine Chapel - Dan Vickers
Team 10 - Ranger -  Sandy Pangle, Gary Cottrell
Team 11 - Salacoa Creek - Joel McNeal, Brandy Rogers, Elizabeth Riekert
Team 12 - Taylortown -  Stephen Stewart, Ann Stewart, Richard White
Early Owling Effort - Joshua Spence, Theresa Spence (1:00 am-5:00am)

SPECIES ACCOUNTS
There was a total of 98 species reported on count dayAnnual birds marked with an asterisk ( * ):

SNOW GOOSE made its fourth count-day appearance this year. Two were observed. One juvenile
was found at the White Graves swamp by Team 1 and an adult at the Fite Bend fields by Team 4.
Snow Goose ~ Rich Hull
CANADA GOOSE numbers were below average with 185 reported.*
Only four WOOD DUCK were observed this year. This is well below the nine year 
average of 36. These were shared between teams 1 and 11. *
GADWALL, one of our annual ducks on the count, was observed in below average 
numbers this year, 58 in all. Teams 1, 8 and 11 shared these. *
At least 52 AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS were observed this year. At least fifty were seen at the
marsh along Holly Creek by Team 8. There were another two birds found along the Carters Lake 
route. This is a new high count for this species and an impressive number for north Georgia.
Only 50 MALLARDS this time, which is below their average of 83. The majority of these were 
observed by Team 1.*
After establishing a high count last year, NORTHERN SHOVELER tied with the low count that
was set during our first year of the count. One bird was observed by Team 11. 
Team 1 counted the only GREEN-WINGED TEAL of the day along the Carters route. This is
only this duck's sixth count-day appearance, and the lowest number ever reported.
RING-NECKED DUCKS were almost totally absent this year. Only two were observed, 
and these were found at the Mashburn Rd. pond by Team 5.*
Team 1 found a single LESSER SCAUP at Carters Lake. This is only the third time
that this species has been observed on count-day.
HOODED MERGANSERS continue the "single digit" trend with only seven birds being
reported this time. These were shared between Teams 7, 11 and 12.*
This was the second best showing for WILD TURKEY since the count's beginning. 
Forty-seven birds were shared amongst four teams. Team 10 found 26 of these 
along the Ranger route.*
PIED-BILLED GREBES were found in the lowest numbers yet, only three individuals.
Team 1 found these at Carter Lake.*
Team 1 also observed seven HORNED GREBE at Carters Lake. This is the fifth time 
that this species has been present on count-day.
Two DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS were found this year. Teams 4 and 9 shared these.
GREAT BLUE HERONS were found in above average numbers this year. Twenty-six in all and 
evenly spread throughout the circle.*
Though 82 BLACK VULTURES is below average for this circle, it is still a strong representation of
this species for the region. Team 12 reported 25 of these from the Taylortown route.*
TURKEY VULTURES were found in the lowest numbers yet, 128 in all. Birds were spread through
out the circle.*
Three SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS were reported this year, which is above average. Teams 4 & 5 
shared these.
Similarly, there were three COOPER'S HAWK reported by Teams 4, 7 and 11.*
Cooper's Hawk ~ Jim Greenway
It was another great year for BALD EAGLES. Four teams observed five individuals
(Teams 1,3,4, & 10). This is the second best count for this species, just behind last 
year's seven.
We established a new high count for RED-SHOULDERED HAWK at 56 individuals! 
This beat the old record by sixteen birds! This buteo was reported by every team with 
Team 2 leading the way with eleven birds.*  
RED-TAILED HAWK came in at the below average total of 30. This is the second
lowest showing for this our most common buteo. Consequently, this is only the second 
time in the last ten years that Red-shouldered Hawks were found in higher numbers.* 
Eight VIRGINIA RAILS  established a new high count. All were heard at the Holly Creek
marsh. Team 5 recored six at the southern end of the marsh along Fox Bridge Rd.,
while Team 8 had two on a northwestern portion of the marsh.
Team 8 also heard three SORAS at the marsh, which is above average. 
AMERICAN COOT continued the trend of being one of the most difficult, yet "suspected"
species to observe in the circle. Team 9 found a single bird.  This tied its low count.
For the second year in a row, the count fell on a day with excellent conditions for 
SANDHILL CRANE passage. The biggest difference is that the large southbound 
groups were mostly skimming the western boundary of the circle this time, rather than 
infiltrating the circle like last year. This made it possible for Team 4 to count them from
an excellent vantage point. They counted 3824 from one location. Team 11 added another 
294 for a grand total of 4118 individuals! This does indeed establish a new high-count for 
this species, beating last year's total by 939 birds. * 
   
KILLDEER were observed in all-time low numbers. 49 individuals were reported from eight different
sections. Team 3 found most of these along the Dews Pond route. This is only the third time that 
numbers have fell below triple digits.*
After last year's extraordinary count of 505 WILSON'S SNIPE, this year's total of 3 was back
to what is typically expected for this circle.  Teams 5, 9 and 11 all had single birds along their routes.                
Wilson's Snipe ~ Daniel Vickers
After four consecutive years of double-digit totals, AMERICAN WOODCOCKS were seemingly 
absent from areas where they had been flourishing. Only a single bird was reported by Team 2. 
It remains to be seen if the freezing fog at dawn contributed to this mysterious absence. This year's
single bird tied with our low count that was established during the 111th CBC season.*
Only a single BONAPARTE'S GULL  was observed at Carters Lake by Team 1. This was the only 
Larus species of the day.

The total of 200 ROCK PIGEONS reported this year was slightly below average. Most(172) were 
found at their usual hangout near the Fite Bend silos.*
EURASIAN COLLARED DOVES came in with ten individuals, which is just barely below average
Nine were observed by Team 4 and a single bird was found by Team 9. 
MOURNING DOVES were reported in much lower numbers than expected.  118 may not seem 
like a low count, but the average for this species is 271!  This is 153 less than the average, and a 
total of 85 birds less than the former low count(203) that was established during the 112th CBC 
season.*

EASTERN SCREECH OWLS were found in decent numbers. Six in all from four teams. *
Five GREAT HORNED OWLS were reported this year by Team 1 & Team 13. 
Only one BARRED OWL was reported this time. A single bird was observed being harassed
by American Crows in the daytime. Team 7. 
An average number of 12 BELTED KINGFISHERS were observed on seven different routes. *  
   
RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS weren't very active this time. Only two were reported! 
This ties the low count for this species that was established the first year of the count. 
Teams 3 and 5 both observed single birds. *
                             
This year's count of 88 RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS is below average.*
YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS were found in above average numbers this year, with a total of
34 being reported from nine sections.*
46 DOWNY WOODPECKERS were observed this year, which is about average.*
Eleven HAIRY WOODPECKERS were reported from five teams. This is slightly above average.*
NORTHERN FLICKERS were above average at 76 individuals.* 
PILEATED WOODPECKERS came in at a below average number of 16, which is the second 
lowest number since the count's inception.*
This year's 26 AMERICAN KESTRELS  were above average, and only one below the high count
of 27 that was set during the 111th CBC season. These were reported from ten different sections.*
American Kestrel ~ Jim Greenway
Team 2 observed one MERLIN.  This is our fifth record for this uncommon falcon. 
      
EASTERN PHOEBES were observed in slightly above average numbers this year, 53 in all.
Team 11 observed sixteen of these along the Salacoa Creek route.*

Two LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES were observed in the circle. Both were observed 
along the Pine Chapel route by Team 9. This area has hosted a population for many years.*
This year's total of 372 BLUE JAYS is well above average 140 of these were counted
along the Coosawattee route by Team 2.*
AMERICAN CROWS were reported in below average numbers, at 540. They were spread 
evenly throughout the circle with no huge murders to mention.*
One FISH CROW was reported this year from Team 7. This is the sixth time that this species has 
shown up on count day.
Only one lone HORNED LARK was reported from the Fite Bend fields by Team 4. Surprisingly,
this is only the fifth count day record.
CAROLINA CHICKADEES were observed in above average numbers, 203 in all.*
TUFTED TITMOUSE (107) was reported in below average numbers this year.*
Two RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES were found this time around. These were shared
by Teams 2 and 10. This is the seventh count day record for the circle.
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES (17) were observed in lower numbers than expected.
This total is only four above the circle's low count. *
BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCH (40) tied with the low count that was established 
during the 115th season.*
Five BROWN CREEPERS were recorded this year and these were shared between
Teams 2, 5 and 11.*
We had two HOUSE WRENS, which does tie this bird's low count for the circle. These 
were shared between Teams 2 and 3.  
WINTER WRENS also tied with their low count. This is the third time that this species has
came in at nine birds. These were observed by Teams 2, 3, and 5.
CAROLINA WRENS were found in slightly below average numbers, 138 in all.*
                                   
This year's 90 GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS were just slightly below the nine year 
average of 95. Team 11 reported the highest number of these from the Salacoa Creek section, 57!* 
                                        
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS were reported in lower than average numbers, 80 in all.*
This count has produced high numbers of EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, and this year's 253 is a 
great total, but still lower than the nine year average of 290. The highest concentration
was 45 birds found along the Taylortown route by Team 12.*
HERMIT THRUSH was found in good numbers. This year's 39 reported is slightly above average.*
Hermit Thrush ~ Daniel Vickers
Good sized flocks of AMERICAN ROBINS were observed throughout the circle this year. 
Altogether, there were 1211 reported which is the second highest total since the count's inception.*
BROWN THRASHERS were found in above average numbers this time. In fact it is the second 
highest count for this species. Ironically, it is the third time that 37 birds have been reported over 
the last ten years. Team 3 reported twelve along the Dews Pond route.*
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD set a new high count for the circle this season. This year's 139
individuals beat the former high by one bird! Team 9 found the highest concentration of these
along the Pine Chapel route, 26 in all.*
539 EUROPEAN STARLINGS were reported.*
There were 75 AMERICAN PIPITS reported this year, which is above average. These were
shared between Teams 4, 9, 11, & 12.*
CEDAR WAXWINGS came in with a total of 748, which is the third highest total for this 
species since the count's beginning. Team 2 found the highest concentration of these.*

Team 5 found a single ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER. This is the third time that 
this species has made an appearance on the count. 

A decent showing of 12 PALM WARBLERS were reported from four sections. Teams 1, 5 , 9 and 
12 found these. Interestingly, two teams observed Eastern form individuals, six in all, which are
uncommon here.*
Palm Warbler(Eastern) ~ Daniel Vickers
                                        
PINE WARBLERS came in at 18, which is barely below average.*
There were 87 YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS reported, which is below average. The
highest concentrations were found in the Taylortown and Salacoa Creek sections.*
The 269 CHIPPING SPARROWS reported was 20 less than the prior low count of 289 that was 
established during our first year of the count. The nine-year average is 457.*
This was the first year that FIELD SPARROW fell below triple digits. Only 69 were reported for a 
new low count for the circle. The nine-year average is 150.*
Field Sparrow ~ Daniel Vickers
A total of 27 FOX SPARROWS were reported from eight separate teams. As usual, most 
were found by Team 2 in the Coosawattee WMA. The nine year average is 31.*
DARK-EYED JUNCO numbers were terribly low this time at 59 individuals reported. This does
indeed establish a new low count for the circle. The nine-year average for this species is 122. 
Team 10 found some decent flocks along the Ranger route, but this species was found in 
single digits throughout most of the circle.*
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS were found in average numbers, 49 in all. Team 9 counted
34 birds at Pine Chapel, Team 4 found 14 birds at Fite Bend and Team 10 had a single bird near 
Ranger.*
White-crowned Sparrow ~ Daniel Vickers



This year's 290 WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were below their average of 329.
Four VESPER SPARROWS were tallied for the count by Team 4. This is below the average 
of 8.*
The SAVANNAH SPARROW number fell below triple digits for the first time in six years. The
nine-year average is 177, so this year's 94 was surprising. The majority of these were found 
along the Dews Pond route by Team 3.*
SONG SPARROW (328) numbers were slightly below average.*
SWAMP SPARROW (54) was scarce this time, producing the second lowest total since the 
count's beginning.*
EASTERN TOWHEES were reported in good numbers, 147 in all. This is above average. 
Team 3 reported the highest concentration of these.*
The 317 NORTHERN CARDINALS observed this year was slightly below average.*
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD set a new high count at 10713 individuals! This beats the old 
record by only 162 birds! This total is a combination of reports from five teams. Team 1
reported 9500 from their section and Team 2 reported another 1120 from theirs.*
EASTERN MEADOWLARK (137) numbers were below average. Most of these were found 
by Teams 1 and 9.*
Team 8 found a single RUSTY BLACKBIRD which unfortunately was the only one for the day
It was found near the Holly Creek wetlands, which is a known roosting area for this declining species.
Team 2 found the largest flock of COMMON GRACKLES with a conservative estimate of 
21,000A few other teams observed much smaller flocks for a final submitted total of 24,505
This is the largest number of grackles that have been reported on the count in five years, and is
above our nine-year average of 20,013!*
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS came in at 101 this time. As usual, most were observed at the 
Fite Bend fields by Team 4.
PURPLE FINCHES were found in record numbers. Six teams reported a total of 45
This just beat the old high count by four individuals which was set during the 109th CBC season.
The nine-year average is 14.
The 63 HOUSE FINCHES that were reported established a new high count.*
Teams 10 and 12 found the day's only PINE SISKINS, ten in all. This is slightly below average, but 
totally the norm for this inconsistent winter visitor.
AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES were found in fewer numbers than ever before. Only 92 were 
reported. This is the first time that this common species has dropped below triple digits.
38 HOUSE SPARROWS were counted.*
COUNT WEEK There was a some effort to supplement our results by scouting and follow-up teams this
year. In fact, seven 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. 
Surf Scoters ~ Joshua Spence
Species reported:

Greater White-fronted Goose - White Graves Swamp
Ross's Goose - White Graves Swamp
Surf Scoter - Carters Lake
Bufflehead - Carters Lake
Common Loon - Carters Lake
Northern Harrier - near Nickelsville
Ring-billed Gull - Caters Lake

   Goose gaggle(Ross's, Canada) ~ Joshua Spence

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:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Carters Lake Christmas Bird Count Summary - January 2, 2016

                                                            Carters Lake CBC circle


The ninth annual Carters Lake Christmas Bird Count was conducted on January 2nd, 2016.
Forty-three volunteer birders traveled a combined 637.8 miles and reported a total of 27,674
individual birds. Not only did we cover more miles than ever before, we set a record with
the number of teams that were in the field. This resulted in the most party
hours ever recorded, 106.5. It was a very interesting year in that the circle had
experienced two major weather events within weeks leading up to the count.

The pre-Christmas heat wave that engulfed the midwest and eastern United States set
record high temperatures in December. The unseasonably warm weather carried on
throughout much of the month and not until New Year's Day did the temperatures suggest
that it was truly winter in north Georgia. Obviously the birds, much like most wildlife do, have
to acclimate to their surroundings. All bird surveyors did notice decreased activity in their
sections this year. It seemed possible that these abrupt cooler temperatures had the reverse affect on many common species in that some areas had little bird movement rather than the foraging frenzies that often occur after a cold front moves in. Of course, this is only an
assumption. There's always the possibility that the barometric pressure may have had an
impact on the actions of some species.


The southeast also experienced a considerable amount of rainfall during December. This
month actually was the second wettest December on record in much of Georgia.
This large amount of rain resulted in flooding of local
rivers and tributaries. Gordon County was actually declared a state of
emergency by Governor Deal. One of the most significant aspects was the impact that all
the extra water had on Carters Lake. By the day of the count, the water at the
reservoir had risen to record levels. The water could not be released into the reregulation
pool until the rereg water was released into the Coosawattee River. Unfortunately for many, the water had to be released at a rate that caused post flooding even after the rain had
halted. This impacted roads, bridges and even the safety in many communities within
Gordon, Murray and Floyd Counties.

                             Water being released into the Coosawattee River from Carters reregulation pool.


As far as impacting our survey effort, some roads were flooded and could not be traveled as they had been in the past. This was essentially a matter of inconvenience by cutting off a few miles of roadside surveying. Some properties that we typically visit
could not be surveyed thoroughly due to some portions being inaccessible.
A few of these were the Carters Lake recreation areas, the New Echota
Historic Park, some local sod farms and specifically Fite Bend.

                                   Flooded sod farm. Joel McNeal



Fite Bend is a 1200-1300 acre bend that is bordered by two rivers. The Conasauga runs along the east side of the bend. At the southern tip, the Conasauga converges with the Coosawattee River to form the Oostanaula River, which runs along the southern and western border of Fite Bend. The property here is used for farming and the winter landcover is predominantly fields with an abundance of bare ground and crop stubble. This area floods periodically, creating a large pool of water that covers approximately half of the bend(600-800 acres). It's basically a large lake. This does shrink the amount of fields that bird surveyors can access, but in turn creates a temporary habitat that can produce results to wildlife refuge proportions. We've been hoping that an opportunity for us to survey it during one of these flooding events would arise, and this year was the year that it became a reality. This helped us establish high counts for some ducks, gulls, and Bald Eagle. If it had not been flooded our duck numbers would have suffered greatly. Due to the warmer conditions in northern regions the waterfowl had not been pushed down south in any significant numbers. Our typical sites where ducks are usually found were empty!



                                            Fite Bend(flooded)


The possibility has been posed that all the rain and floodwaters could have displaced birds
from the circle. It is a known fact that heavy precipitation during migration can change the
behavior of migrants. Therefore, how did the recent long periods of rainfall affect our wintering birds? This is a valid question. Thankfully, the weather conditions on count day were very agreeable to surveyors with a low of 30° and a high of 49°. The wind was calm overall and zero precipitation!


Not only did our count fall on the aftermath of these afore mentioned weather events, but it
also fell on an excellent day for crane passage. After eight years of hoping, it finally took
place. The favorable tail winds sent thousands of Sandhills south. Below is a great photo
that allows one to get an idea of the overall experience.

     Sandhill Cranes in flight. Amanda Ostraat













A Christmas Bird Count circle is fifteen miles in diameter. 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.

Team 1 - Carters Lake - Bill Lotz, Jess Searcy
Team 2 - Coosawattee WMA - Charlie Muise, Tracey Muise, Allan Muise 
Team 3 - Dews Pond -  Chris Lambrecht, Bob Babcock
Team 4 - Fite Bend - Rebecca Byrd, Angelia Jenkins, JoAnn King, Rich Hull, Willie Malpass,   
Onjulique Orsten-Malpass, Pat Markey, Toni Bowen
Team 5 - Mashburn Pond - Sandy Pangle , Ted Antal, John & Karen McFarland 
Team 6 - New Echota - Johnnie Greene, Larry Stephens, Gary Cottrell, Jeff Waddlington
Team 7 - Nickelsville - Jim Greenway & Dawn Greenway (Duncan Beard)
Team 8 - Pettiet Branch Marsh -  Max Medley, George Parsley, Mark McShane  
Team 9 - Pine Chapel - Dan Vickers, Pierre Howard
Team 10 - Ranger -  Justin Neal, Louise Venne, Amanda Ostraat
Team 11 - Salacoa Creek - Joel McNeal, Brandy Rogers, Elizabeth Riekert
Team 12 - Sugar Creek - Joshua Spence, Derrick Ingle
Team 13 - Taylortown -  Stephen Stewart, Ann Stewart, Richard White
Early Owling Effort - Joshua Spence, Theresa Spence (2:30am-5:00am)
                                    Mashburn Pond team, counting cranes


Species accounts - There was a total of 105 species reported on count day this year
annual birds marked with an asterisk ( * ):

CANADA GOOSE numbers were below average with 172 reported.*

One lone WOOD DUCK was heard along Sugar Creek by Team 12. This single bird established a new low count for this annual resident species. It is strongly suspected that this poor showing was a direct product of the flooding. This species is an inhabitant of flooded forests and there was an abundance of this habitat on count day. Plenty of inaccessible places for them to retreat.*

GADWALL, one of our annual ducks on the count, was observed in below average numbers this year, 55 in all. Team 4 & Team 9 shared most of these. *

AMERICAN WIGEONS made their fifth appearance on the count. Team 9 observed six individuals while Team 4 had a single, making this year's total 7. This is the second highest total for the count. 

Ten AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS were observed at a marsh along Holly Creek by team 8. This is a new high count for this species.

Only 51 MALLARDS this time, which is below their average of 87. The majority of these were observed by Teams 5 and 8 at the Holly Creek marsh. *

NORTHERN SHOVELER set a new high count with 63 total. All but one were observed at the flooded Fite Bend fields by Team 4. The single bird was observed by Team 9. 

Team 4 counted the only GREEN-WINGED TEALS of the day at the flooded Fite Bend fields. 20 birds in all, an above average number for this small duck.

REDHEADS were found in record numbers for the count. A raft of at least 125 was observed at Fite Bend. This is the third time this species has been reported on count day.

RING-NECKED DUCKS also enjoyed high numbers at 334 reported birds. Again, a large raft of at least 300 individuals was observed at Fite Bend. Team 1 recorded 33 at Carters Lake, late in the day. Team 9 had a single bird. This total beats the former record of 208 that was established the second year of the count.*

HOODED MERGANSERS were few and far between. Only four were reported! This is the second lowest showing for this species since the count's beginning. Teams 1, 2 and 4 shared these.*

RUDDY DUCK made its first count-day appearance! After being a count-week bird for a couple of years, we were finally able to make this duck an official tally on our list. This species is actually considered to be somewhat common in northwest Georgia, but for some reason can be difficult to find in this circle. We had six in all. Four reported by Team 4 at Fite Bend and two reported from Carters Lake by Team 1.

Team 9 found three NORTHERN BOBWHITE in two areas. One bird was actually calling in a cemetery. This is the fourth time this resident species has been reported on the count.  

The only WILD TURKEY counted this year were a group of five observed in the Wildlife Management Area by Team 12.  This is well below average, and the second lowest number ever reported for this game bird. *

A single COMMON LOON was observed at Carters Lake by Team 1.

PIED-BILLED GREBES were found in below average numbers, at 9 individuals. Teams 6 and 9 reported most of these.*

Two DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS were found this year. Teams 1 and 6 shared these. *

GREAT BLUE HERONS tied with their low count at 18 individuals. This was the number reported the first year the count was conducted. Ironically, this is actually the third time they have been reported at that number and it's averaging every fourth year. Team 1 observed the highest concentration of these at Carters Lake. *

Though 78 BLACK VULTURES is below average for this circle, it is still a strong representation of this species for this region. Team 7 reported 25 from the Nickelsville route.*

TURKEY VULTURES were found in lower than usual numbers this go-around, 147 in all, which still is a decent number.*

An average number of five NORTHERN HARRIERS were reported this year from four different sections.*

Four SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS were reported this year, which established a high count for our smallest accipiter.

Eight COOPER'S HAWKS were reported this year from seven sections, which is above average.*

Seven BALD EAGLES were observed this year, which consequently breaks our former record of three. These were shared between three teams. Team 1 observed three at Carter's Lake, Team 4 observed two at Fite Bend and Team 6 observed two on the New Echota route. It is suspected that the extensive flooding of area rivers could have contributed to attracting more eagles to the area.

Buteo numbers were above average this year. 39 RED-SHOULDERED HAWK were reported. This is only one less than their high count of 40 recorded three years ago.*  RED-TAILED HAWK came in at 47.* 

Team 8 found an average number of two VIRGINIA RAILS and a high count of five SORAS at the Holly Creek marsh. 

Four AMERICAN COOTS were observed this year. This common species does not have a strong wintering presence in this circle. In fact, it isn't even annual on the count and these few reported this year tie for the high count. Teams 2 & 4 shared these.

In contrast to last year's low count of four SANDHILL CRANES, this year's total of 3179 was "all the rage." This does indeed establish a new high-count for this species, obliterating the old record of 384 that was established five years ago. Most birds were observed flying southeast in large waves. Cranes were reported by all thirteen teams. Team 2 counted 2360 individual birds alone. We were careful not to include flocks that could have been counted more than once by multiple teams. We did this by recording the times of observations, therefore the above total is a conservative count. Crane migration is truly a spectacle to behold. * 

    Cranes in flight by Louise Venne



Again, KILLDEER were observed in good numbers. 426 individuals were reported. Team 4(140) and Team 12(150) reported the largest flocks.*

WILSON SNIPE not only established a new high count for the circle, but were observed in record-breaking numbers for the state of Georgia. Team 9 flushed several large flocks from a wet roadside field. When the counting was over they had tallied a total of 502 birds!!!!! A few others were added from other sites for a total of 505!!!!!

                  Snipe in fight by Pierre Howard




52 total AMERICAN WOODCOCKS were reported from six sections! This trumps our old record of twenty-nine birds that was set two years ago. All these were observed at either dawn or dusk while birds were conducting their aerial courtship displays. Twenty-one were reported from the Coosawattee WMA by Team 2. The others were shared among Team 1(5), Team 4(4), Team 6(6), Team 11(5), Team 12(12).*

Gulls were observed in higher numbers than usual and both of our regular occurring species garnered high counts this year. Eight BONAPARTE'S GULLS were observed at Carters Lake by Team 1 while Team 4 found one at the flooded Fite Bend fields, making 9 in all. Similarly, Team 4 observed twelve RING-BILLED GULLS, and Team 1 counted eight for a total of 20 individuals.

There were a total of 506 ROCK PIGEONS reported from six sections. Most were found at their usual hangout near the Fite Bend silos where at least 450 were seen.*

The 2 EURASIAN COLLARED DOVES observed by Team 4 was a below-average count for this species. 

MOURNING DOVES were reported in lower numbers than expected. Still, 269 is a decent count for the circle's only native dove. 150 of these were reported from Fite Bend where they often congregate to take advantage of the crop spillage.*

A single predawn BARN OWL was observed against the night's sky at Fite Bend, a long time established site for one of the most difficult resident species to find on this CBC. 

EASTERN SCREECH OWLS were found in good numbers. Nine in all from three sections: Team 1(5), Team 2(3) and Team 12(1). *

Two GREAT HORNED OWLS were reported this year by Team 1 & Team 6. 

A good count on BARRED OWLS, seven in all were reported from five sections. Team 2 had three of these.  

An average number of 12 BELTED KINGFISHERS were observed. *
     
    Belted Kingfisher by Amanda Ostraat


An average total of 12 RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were reported from six teams. Team 9 had five of these on the Pine Chapel route. *

                              Red-headed Woodpecker by Daniel Vickers


This year's count of 82 RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS is below average. Teams 3 and 11 had the highest concentrations of this common resident woodpecker.*

YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS were found in average numbers this year, with a total of 27 being reported from eleven sections.*

45 DOWNY WOODPECKERS were observed this year, which is slightly below average. The highest concentration of these were found by Team 10 along the Ranger route.*

Eight HAIRY WOODPECKERS were reported from eight teams. This is slightly below average.*

NORTHERN FLICKERS were also a little below average at 51 individuals. The largest concentration(12) was reported by Team 3 on the Dews Pond route.* 

PILEATED WOODPECKERS came in at an above average number of 26.*

This year's 19 AMERICAN KESTRELS  was slightly below average, but widespread. These were reported from ten different sections. *

Team 9 observed one MERLIN.  This is only our fourth record for this uncommon falcon. 

   Merlin by Pierre Howard
   

EASTERN PHOEBES were observed in above average numbers this year, 53 in all. Team 13 observed the highest concentration of these along the Taylortown route.*

Two LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES were observed in the circle this year. One was observed, as usual, along the Pine Chapel route by Team 9. The other was found by Team 7 on the Nickelsville route at a site where they've not been seen in years. Hopefully this species will rebound and begin to thrive in the circle. *

Team 11 found a BLUE-HEADED VIREO in the Salacoa Creek section. This is the count's fourth record.

This year's total of 391 BLUE JAYS is well above average *

                                         Blue Jay by Daniel Vickers




AMERICAN CROWS were reported in slightly above average numbers, at 717. The largest murders(160) being reported along the Ranger route by Team 10. *

Four FISH CROWS were reported this year from Teams 4 and 6. This is the fifth time that they've shown up on count day.

Only one lone HORNED LARK was reported from the Fite Bend fields. Surprisingly, this is only the fourth record on a count day for this species.

CAROLINA CHICKADEES were observed in slightly lower numbers than average, 154 in all. The highest concentration being reported from Team 3 along the Dews Pond route.*

TUFTED TITMICE (135) were reported in slightly above average numbers this year.*

                                         Tufted Titmouse by Daniel Vickers


WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES (31) were found in better than average numbers. *

The BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCHES (51) were observed in below average numbers. The highest concentrations of this species were found in the Coosawattee WMA by Teams 2 and 12.*

Four BROWN CREEPERS were recorded this year and these were shared between Teams 1, 6 and 11. *

We had an average number of six HOUSE WRENS, reported from five sections. 

WINTER WRENS were in good numbers this year, 20 in all. These were reported from nine separate teams, most being observed in the Coosawattee WMA.

CAROLINA WRENS were also found in above average numbers. 187 in all.*
     
                                          Carolina Wren by Daniel Vickers


This year's 116 GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS were above average. Team 11 reported the highest number of these from the Salacoa Creek section.* 

                                        Golden-crowned Kinglet by Daniel Vickers


RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS were reported in lower than average numbers, 109 in all.*

This count has produced high numbers of EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, and this year's total of 371 is a great total, but not quite enough to beat the high count of 417. *

HERMIT THRUSH were found in good numbers. The 47 reported is above average.*

Good sized flocks of AMERICAN ROBINS were observed throughout the circle this year. Altogether there were 1085 reported which is above average.*

The 55 BROWN THRASHERS reported this year broke our old high count record by 18 individuals! The highest number of these came from Team 4 at Fite Bend.*

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRDS (115) were found in slightly above average numbers this go-around.*

1,490 EUROPEAN STARLINGS were reported.*

Team 4 and Team 11 observed the only AMERICAN PIPITS for the day. This year's total of 42 is slightly below average.*

CEDAR WAXWINGS came in with a total of 265which is also slightly below average for this circle.*

Members of Team 4 observed a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR at the Fite Bend fields. This is the fourth time that this species has made an appearance on count-day. The data over the years is beginning to suggest and possibly confirm that this site is most likely annual wintering grounds for this rare winter visitor.

Two ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS were reported this year. Teams 2 and 9 shared these. This is only the second time that this species has been found on the count.

A decent count of 15 PALM WARBLERS were reported from three sections. Teams 1, 4 and 9. Interestingly, two teams observed Eastern form individuals, which are uncommon here.*
                                        Palm Warbler by Daniel Vickers


PINE WARBLERS had the same exact number reported as last year....18, which is slightly above average.*

The YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER total this year was below average, 70 in all. This is our third lowest since the count's inception, but actually more than I expected as this species has been noticeably scarce this season. The highest concentration was along the Ranger route.*

The following eleven species of Emberizidae were observed on the count with a total of 2,206 individuals:

The 710 CHIPPING SPARROWS reported is the second highest count for this species. Teams 1, 2 and 11 reported totals in the triple digits.*

FIELD SPARROWS were found in good numbers, 170 in all.*

A total of 88 FOX SPARROWS were reported from eight separate teams. Sixty individuals were found by Team 2 in the Coosawattee WMA. Team 12 reported 15 from another section of the WMA. This smashed last year's high count by 27 birds! This could possibly be a new high count for the state as well.

DARK-EYED JUNCO numbers were above average at 131. Most of these were reported by Team 5 on the Mashburn Pond route.*

You know there's a thriving winter population of WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS returning annually to the count's circle when their total of 43 is below average! In fact, this is the third lowest total reported! Teams 1 and 9 observed a few of these, but the bulk(35) were reported from Fite Bend by Team 4. *

This year's 275 WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS were well below their average of 335.

Ten VESPER SPARROWS were tallied for the count. This is the first time in six years that this species has reached double-digits. These were shared by Teams 4 and 11.*

                                       Vesper Sparrow by Willie Malpass


The SAVANNAH SPARROW number was just slightly above average this year, coming in at 182 individuals.*

SONG SPARROW (331) numbers were slightly below average.*

SWAMP SPARROW (76) were observed in below average numbers, producing their third lowest total since the count's beginning.*

EASTERN TOWHEES were reported in good numbers, 190 in all. Well above average. Team 3 reported the highest concentration of these.*

The 534 NORTHERN CARDINALS observed this year completely destroyed the former high count of 433!!! This high number is most likely a product of more teams in the field.*

Team 1 observed a rare wintering INDIGO BUNTING along a marsh's edge in the White Graves section. This is one of only a handful of winter records from the state. It is only the second known record from northwest Georgia, the first being a bird found on the Dalton Christmas Bird Count on December 26, 1966. A nice surprise to top off a great day of counting birds.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS were observed in slightly higher numbers than usual at 2096. Team 5 observed at least 1200 coming out of one of the wetlands along Holly Creek.*

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (162) numbers were below average.*

Team 4 found the only RUSTY BLACKBIRDS (60) for this year's count at Fite Bend.

Team 9 found the largest flock of COMMON GRACKLES with a conservative estimate of 10,000. A few other teams observed some for a final total of 10,168. Even though this is a fair showing, our average for this circle is 27,243!*

BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS came in at 55 this year. 

The 16 HOUSE FINCHES that were reported were below average.*

Teams 1 and 11 found the day's only PINE SISKINS, five in all.

There was only one PURPLE FINCH reported this year. Team 2.

AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES were in fewer numbers than usual. 114 in all which is only six more than the all time low of 108!* 

43 HOUSE SPARROWS were counted.*



There was a good effort to supplement our results by scouting and follow-up teams this
year. In fact, six 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. Species reported:

Canvasback
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Bufflehead
Horned Grebe
Least Sandpiper



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:


http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count


                                   Wilson's Snipe by Daniel Vickers


                                              Junior Birdwatchers