My series of Christmas Bird Counts this season continued last Saturday with the Charlotte Count. The official numbers are not out yet, but it appears the Charlotte Count may have tied an all-time high for species at 96.
My day began at 6:30 a.m. at Renaissance Golf Course off Tyvola Road with temperatures in the upper 20s and calm winds, perfect conditions for listening for owls. My group got no cooperation from those birds, however. We did receive one nice consolation: a calling American woodcock that give us our first bird of the day at 6:47 a.m.
The Charlotte Count generally depends on Renaissance to produce a few specialty birds that often are not found anywhere else in the Count Circle. We found three of those: the woodcock, an orange-crowned warbler, and white-crowned sparrow. A completely unexpected find was three wild turkeys crossing one of the fairways. During the three-hour walk around the course, we were able to add Wilson’s snipe, rusty blackbird, fox sparrow, and sharp-shinned hawk, among other more common species.
At this point we decided to drive to the east boundary of the circle to check on a feeder in Stonehaven that had been hosting a hummingbird. Just a few minutes after arriving, we were able to record a rufous hummingbird, one of five that would eventually be counted that day.
Next, a stop at the lake in Beverly Crest near the Arboretum produced a lone ruddy duck, much less than expected. Davie Park off Matthews-Pineville Road re-energized the effort a bit when a small feeding flock of birds produced a brown creeper. While chasing this group through the woods, a great-horned owl flushed off its daytime roost and gave us great looks at this powerful predator.
The day was finished off at some preserved land along Brier Creek near the Mint Museum. This has been a good spot for calling owls in the past but again the birds were silent at dusk. I did enjoy watching several species of woodpeckers enter their evening roost holes here, including hairy woodepecker, pileated woodpecker, and Northern flicker.
I have at least two more days to do before Jan. 5, 2013, the end of the count period.
Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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