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Bull City Bird Count

December 17, 2007

Sunday Sunday Sunday!!! Live.. livelive… in Durham , North Carolina.. linalina… Home to the wretched Blue Devils of Dook University (Go Heels!). Inspirer of Kevin Costner movies. Cigarette producer to the world. It’s the Durham County Christmas Bird Count, starring your plucky narrator as he attempts to spot and count as many birds as possible from sun-up to sun-down. Yes friends, this was my task in section 4 of the Durham count circle, to finally toss off the bonds of job and family to join the multitudes trekking across our land in search of those winter wonders.

Section 4 was an enviable draw I must say. Situated north of the city, it contained within its sovereign borders not one, but two lakes, plus open farmland in the form of the NC State Beef Laboratory not found in many spots elsewhere in the triangle. At 7:00 am I was met at Lake Michie by John and Elaine, who had been added to my group at somewhat last minute. No worries though, I appreciated the company and the extra sets of eyes. We started by walking down to the lake, well, what was left of the lake as you can see to the left. We were greeted by gentle rain and the sight of Durham’s severely depleted water supply. The regular winter mix of birds, Chickadees, Titmice, Kinglets, and the normal Sparrows were common throughout. The only birds we could find on the lake proper, though, were a flock of squabbling Ring-billed Gulls and a Belted Kingfisher. Not bad, but I certainly expected more. Any other year perhaps…

After being waylaid for about an hour due to rain (we’ve been waiting for it for months, and it has to come today?), we headed off to the NC State experimental beef farm where we probably had our best stop of the day. Right off the bat I spotted a group of a dozen American Pipits foraging in the soil in one of the cattle pens. With them was a single Brown-headed Cowbird that surprisingly turned out to be the only one spotted in the count circle. The sharp eyes of John and Elaine came in handy when they spotted a lone Wild Turkey clear across the field standing stock still in the woods. These species were three of the best of the day for us.

For the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon we spent our time cruising the farm roads that criss-cross our area. I had thankfully purchased a detailed map of the region which illustrated several little out of the way spots that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about. Another good bird, for me at least, was this House Wren (left) who popped out of a weedy lot in response to some pishing. I was under the impression that this was a very good bird for the area, as I hadn’t heard many reports of winter House Wrens around here. Turns out the reason for that is because they are rather common, so shows what I know. I was still pretty excited about it, regardless.

I had high hopes for the second reservoir in the area, Little River, especially since Lake Michie had been a bust. Little River hadn’t suffered quite as much but the water was still really low. So low, in fact, that all of the regular lake side vegetation was halfway up the slope, providing little cover for birds now that the wind was really beginning now to whip up. Little River held nothing more than some Pied-billed Grebes and the ubiquitous urban Canada Geese.

In the end our little group pulled in a respectable tally of 57 species for the day. At the compilation dinner I learned the total count circle was at least 83 species with a couple groups yet to check in. While it wasn’t a gangbusters CBC, it was a great day out. Here’s to the next one.

One Comment
  1. Hoaryredpoll permalink
    December 17, 2007 9:09 pm

    Well I would have loved to have had a House Wren and American Pipit on my count, they are really rare birds. I had to ‘suffer’ with Common Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks and more American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos than you could shake a stick at.

    Will, The Nightjar

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