The Christmas Count season is more than two-thirds over. I have three under my belt with two coastal counts going this weekend. They will be both tiring and exhilarating. There have been a lot of great birds found so far locally. I’m hoping for a continuation this weekend at Wilmington and Southport.
I enjoy those counts, and Charlotte and Lake Norman, not only for birds but also for the evening tally-up that includes good food and drink. All of the groups gather to run down the species tallied on count day. It’s a time of great anticipation. How will my group’s day in the field stack up against the others? Will there be any super-rarities reported that I can chase tomorrow? How will this year’s count rate against past years?
The count compiler prepares a master list of birds that are expected, or at least reasonably expected, to be found on count day. As each species is confirmed as found there are nods of agreement or perhaps sighs of relief when a “yes” is the answer to some of the tougher-to-find species. Audible groans emanate when a species is called out and is met with silence.
There are misses, and then there are Bad Misses. A Bad Miss is a bird that is usually pretty darn easy to find but for whatever reason failed to show on Count Day. Heads get scratched in disbelief. “How could a room full of excellent birders fail to turn up a gadwall?!
But there is a chance for redemption, the Write-Ins. Once the rundown of the master list has been completed the compiler will poll the participants for any species of birds that are not on the master list. These are birds that are not expected to be found in the count area. There are always some, and in years where a record is set there are many. At the Charlotte tally-up it seemed the announced Write-Ins would never stop. Some really great seasonal rarities were found… blue-winged teal, redheads, osprey, spotted sandpiper, ruby-throated hummingbird, fish crow, black and white warbler, yellow warbler, summer tanager. The hits just kept on coming accompanied by the appropriate oohs and ahs. And in the end the Write-Ins were enough to set a count record of 101 species.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.