Thursday, January 9, 2014

Carter's Lake Christmas Bird Count Summary - December 21, 2013

The seventh annual Carter's Lake Christmas Bird Count was conducted on December 21, 
2013.  This is what I'd like to refer to as a "count of firsts", since there were several 
weather and effort-related elements that contributed to this year's count.

* This was the warmest count since its beginning. The recorded low was 55° and the high was 68°

* We received our first ever count-day precipitation this year. Fortunately, not so much 
that it hurt our survey efforts.

* There were 36 participants, which bested our previous record by one.

* Not only did we establish a new record for party hours, but we broke into triple digits.......
barely. 101.5 hours in all.

* More miles were driven and hiked this year, 510 in all.

The counters did an excellent job covering their section routes. There was a total of ninety-nine species recorded on count-day.  

There was great effort to supplement our results by scouting and follow-up teams this
year. In fact, eleven 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:

Ross's Goose 
American Black Duck
Common Goldeneye
Ruddy Duck
Common Loon
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Bonaparte's Gull
Fish Crow
Brewer's Blackbird

Two of the above species were actually nemesis birds for the circle. Canvasback and
Ruddy Duck had not been observed for the count before this year. The Ross's Goose is a 
review species in the state and required a decision by the GA Records Committee. The
report was submitted and the details were deemed sufficient for inclusion in the historical database. 

Count-day teams were as follows:

Team 1 - Carter's Lake Section - Theresa Hartz, Bob Henderson, Bill Lotz, Patty McLean, 
               Pat Markey(am hours), Max Medley(am hours)

Team 2 - Pine Chapel Section - Jeff Sewell, Dan Vickers

Team 3 - Coosawattee WMA Section- Allan Muise, Charlie Muise, Tracey Muise

Team 4 - Fite Bend Section - Ken Blankenship, Rebecca Byrd, JoAnn King, Kathy Schock

Team 5 - Salacoa Section - Ann Stewart, Stephen Stewart, Richard White

Team 6 - Dews Pond Section - Bob Babcock, Chris Lambrecht

Team 7 - Ranger Section - Renee' Carleton, Joel McNeal

Team 8 - Fox Bridge Marsh Section - Mark Goins, Ruth Marley, Joshua Spence

Team 9 - New Echota Section - Beth Ash, Gary Cottrell, Terri Davis, Johnnie Greene, 

Team 10 -  Duncan Beard, Richard Maddox, Ben Woodward, Bob Woodward

Team 11 - Conniston Section - Pat Markey, Max Medley

Team 12 - Stationary Watch(Reservoir/Fite Bend) - Mark McShane

Team 13 - Early Owling Effort(12:00-2:00 am) - Joshua Spence, Seth Spence, Theresa 

species accounts:

CANADA GOOSE numbers were about average with 341 reported.*

WOOD DUCKS were observed in good numbers this year, but were scarce throughout most of the circle, 87 in all. Team 10 observed the majority of these at a wetland at dawn. This does constitute a new high-count for the circle. *

GADWALL, one of our annual ducks on the count, easily set a new high with a total of 201 individuals. This more than doubled our former high number of 86! *

Four AMERICAN WIGEONS were observed by Team 1. This is the third time that this species has been observed on the count.

132 MALLARDS set a new high count for this species.*

NORTHERN SHOVELERS were slightly below average at individuals reported. This is exactly how many we had last year. Team 2 & Team 8 shared these.

Team 1 observed one NORTHERN PINTAIL. This is the third time that this species has shown up on count day.

Team 10 observed at least 30 GREEN-WINGED TEAL at a wetlandThis established a new high-count for this species.

The RING-NECKED DUCK numbers were well below average, only 13 observed this year.*

HOODED MERGANSERS were few and far between. Only eight were reported! This is the lowest showing for this species since the count's beginning.*

The 40 WILD TURKEY counted this year was above average for that species. *

PIED-BILLED GREBES were found in above average numbers, at 17 individuals. Team 1 reported 10 of these.*

This is the second year in a row that only a single DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT was found on count-day, and once again it was observed by Team 5 at the DeFoor Walters Lake(Salacoa Park). *

GREAT BLUE HERONS were observed in good numbers this year. The total of 32 is only two less than the circle's high count that was set last year. *

Though the 82 BLACK VULTURES is below average for this circle, it is still a strong representation of this species for this region. *

TURKEY VULTURES were found in high numbers this go-around, 315 in all!  This barely beats the former record by fifteen birds. A roost of at least 175 of these was observed by Team 3.*

This was a great year for NORTHERN HARRIERS. Twelve were counted(high count), five of which were observed at the Fite Bend fields. Team 4.*

Eight COOPER'S HAWKS were reported this year.*

Three BALD EAGLES were observed at Carter's Lake, which ties our high-count.

Buteo numbers were above average again this year. RED-SHOULDERED HAWK(31)* & RED-TAILED HAWK(42).* Though it does not count as an individual species, it is noteworthy that Team 12 observed a juvenile Krider's Hawk at Fite Bend. This is a western subspecies of the Red-tailed, which is a rare visitor to GA.

Team 8 found two VIRGINIA RAILS and three SORAS at the Fox Bridge marsh. 

Two 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! Team 2 & Team 8.

In contrast to last year's good numbers of SANDHILL CRANES, this year's 15 was quite a surprise. This does indeed establish a new low-count for this species.*

Again, KILLDEER were observed in good numbers. 508 individuals were reported. Team 3 counted 314 of these.*

Team 4 found two LEAST SANDPIPERS at Fite Bend. This is the fourth time this species has been reported on the count.

Five WILSON'S SNIPE were counted this year, all reported by Team 4.*

A combined count of 29 AMERICAN WOODCOCKS were reported from five sections. This sets a new record high. Team 3 reported sixteen of these near the Coosawattee WMA at dawn.*

One RING-BILLED GULL was observed by Team 1, establishing a new low count for our only annual gull.*

The 215 ROCK PIGEONS were above average numbers for this count. Most were observed at the Carter's reregulation dam and the Fite Bend silos.*

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

This is the third year that MOURNING DOVES have been reported in lower numbers than expected. Still, 239 is a decent count for the circle's only native dove. *

EASTERN SCREECH OWLS were found in average numbers. Five in all. *

Two GREAT HORNED OWLS were reported this year. Team 3 & Team 9. 

Three BARRED OWLS were heard just after midnight at the Polecat Creek swamp. These were the only ones reported this year. Team 13

An average number of 13 BELTED KINGFISHERS were observed. *

The total of 19 RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS were reported from six teams. This is above average for this circle. *

This year's count of 133 RED-BELLIED WOODPECKERS is the second highest since the count's inception.* 

39 YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKERS established a new high for the count, beating last year's total by only one individual!*

51 DOWNY WOODPECKERS were observed this year.*

Eleven HAIRY WOODPECKERS were counted. This is the fourth time that this species has reached double-digits.*

NORTHERN FLICKERS beat last year's high of 95 with this year's 99.* 

PILEATED WOODPECKERS came in at 29 individuals.*

This year's 17 AMERICAN KESTRELS  tied the circle's low-count! *

Team 3 observed one MERLIN.  This is the third record for the count.

EASTERN PHOEBES were observed in above average numbers this year, 55 in all.*

One LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE was observed in the circle this year, and as usual it was observed by Team 2 near Moss Rd. *

Team 7 observed a WHITE-EYED VIREO, possibly the first winter record for GA's Ridge & Valley! 

Team 5 found a BLUE-HEADED VIREO. This is the count's third record.

This year's high number of 454 BLUE JAYS beat last year's record by nine individuals. *

AMERICAN CROWS were reported in good numbers, but the 663 birds counted is actually below average for this count. *

Team 4 counted 15 HORNED LARKS at the Fite Bend fields. Surprisingly, this is only the third record for the circle.

CAROLINA CHICKADEES were observed in good numbers, 229 in all. This is only eleven less than the official high count.*

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

Team 5 found our only RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH of the day at the Salacoa Creek Park.  

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES(32) were found in average numbers. *

The BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCHES(55) were observed in below average numbers.*

Five BROWN CREEPERS were recorded this year. *

We established high-counts for our three most common wintering wrens: HOUSE WREN(16) beat the old record by four, WINTER WREN(28)* doubled the previous record and CAROLINA WREN(282)* had an increase of 90 individuals!

Team 11 found a single SEDGE WREN. This is the third time that this species has made an appearance on count-day.

It seemed like GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS were more numerous than usual, and the final total proved this assumption. This year's 255 totally crushed the former high count of 112!!!*

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS were reported in above average numbers, 118 in all.*

This count has produced high numbers of EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, and this year's total of 246 is nothing to be ashamed of.  Still, this number is below average and approximately 20% less than what we usually observe. Considering the typical habitat of this species, it is possible that this is one that the rain had a negative impact on.*

HERMIT THRUSHES were found in good numbers. The 45 reported is well above average.*

After last year's high count of 1723 AMERICAN ROBINS, this year had a considerable drop to 564.*

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRDS(121) were found in above average numbers this go-around.*

37 BROWN THRASHERS were reported, which tied last year's high count!*

1,609 EUROPEAN STARLINGS were reported.*

Team 4 and Team 5 observed the majority of the day's AMERICAN PIPITS. The count's total of 195 destroyed last year's high count of 80.*

CEDAR WAXWINGS came in with a total of 630, which is above average.*

Team 4 observed six LAPLAND LONGSPURS at the Fite Bend fields. This is the third time that this species has made an appearance on count-day, and also establishes a high-count for the circle.  

Team 4 observed four COMMON YELLOWTHROATS this year. This is the count's third record and high-count. 

A decent count of 14 PALM WARBLERS were reported from four sections.

The 27 PINE WARBLERS reported was slightly above average.*

The YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER total this year was slightly below average, 120 in all.*

Eleven species of Emberizidae were observed on the count. 2,757 individuals were counted, the highest thus far for the Carter's Lake CBC. 

EASTERN TOWHEES were reported in good numbers, 161 in all. Well above average.*

The 858 CHIPPING SPARROWS counted, more than doubles our former record of 413! This species was reported from every section, with several triple digit entries.*

FIELD SPARROWS were found in high numbers this year, 204 in all, giving this species a new high-count.*

Only three VESPER SPARROWS were tallied for the count. This is the fourth year in a row that this species has failed to reach double-digits.*

The SAVANNAH SPARROW number was well below average, coming in at 142 individuals. This is approximately 21% less than what is usually expected.*

A total of 20 FOX SPARROWS were found on this year's count. This is the fourth highest number we've recorded in the circle, the highest being 36 during the initial count. This species was reported from eight sections.*

SONG SPARROW(458) numbers were well above average, second to last year's 524.*

SWAMP SPARROW (259) did well, beating last year's record by eighteen individual birds to establish a new high count for the circle!*

This year's 464 WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS is above average, second to last year's 508.*  

After last year's triple digit total of WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS, I was curious to see if a new trend was to be establishedNot so. Still, this year's total of 53 was slightly above average, and continues to identify the circle as a stronghold for this winter visitor in Georgia's Ridge and Valley. *

DARK-EYED JUNCO numbers were above average at 135.*

A total of 386 NORTHERN CARDINALS were counted this year, second to last year's 433.*

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS were observed in the highest numbers since the count's inception. 10,551 individuals in all, most being observed at the Fite Bend fields by Team 4.*

EASTERN MEADOWLARK(173) numbers were below average.*

Team 4 observed an adult male YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD that was mixed in with a large blackbird flock at the Fite Bend fields. This is one of the few records for this species in north GA!

After last year's total of 182 individuals, it was nice to have at least one semi-large flock of COMMON GRACKLES within the circle. As expected this flock made its appearance at the Fite Bend fields. Even though 4,748 is a fair showing, our average for this circle is 27,379!*

BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS can often be absent on this count. This year's 127 easily established a new high for the circle, beating the previous record of 35. Most of these were found by Team 4. 

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

Team 1 found the day's only PINE SISKIN.

AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES, ironically tied with their 2010 low count of 108!* 

29 HOUSE SPARROWS were counted.*

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.

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