Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Highlights of the Charlotte Christmas Bird Count.

I am done with the local Christmas Bird Counts. I've done three, with two coastal counts to go.
The results of the local counts tell us that there are a lot of semi-hardy species that are lingering in the southern piedmont this early winter. This is not unusual in years where temperatures are relatively warm through the count period.
Some examples of this phenomenon are the presence of black and white warblers on both the Southern Lake Norman and Charlotte counts. Blue-gray gnatcatchers were found on both the Gastonia and Charlotte counts. A lingering ruby-throated hummingbird in Charlotte is very unusual. All of these species would normally be well to our east or south by now.
And as a bonus, I visited a home where eight Baltimore orioles are gobbling up grape jelly daily.

Here are few photos of highlight birds from the Charlotte Count held last Saturday December 27th:

Least sandpipers are a species you might expect to be on a coastal count rather than a piedmont one. But this species is a regular winterer at a local wastewater treatment plant.

Least Sandpiper by John Ennis

Horned larks are tough to find in Mecklenburg County. They are birds of extensive open country, often with little or no vegetation. note the rocky substrate this bird is foraging in.

Horned Lark by John Ennis

This ruby-throated hummingbird is an extremely rare bird for us in the winter. It is ironic that one is present in Charlotte this year, when the more expected rufous hummingbird is virtually absent.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Karen Clapperton

Blue-gray gnatcatchers linger in warmer winters. They were found this year at Gastonia and Charlotte.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher by John Ennis

Like gnatcatchers, black and white warblers linger in mild winters. These warblers creep along tree trunks and branches, gleaning invertebrate material from the crevices. Since they don't glean food from greenery they can survive the winter weather here. This species was found at Charlotte and Southern Lake Norman.

Black and White Warbler by John Ennis

Baltimore orioles are infrequent feeder visitors in the southern piedmont, but established flocks sometimes develop. Eight birds are currently at a home in southeast Charlotte.
Baltimore Oriole by Phil Fowler.