Spring Bird Count finds 155 species

10:44 am | May 6, 2013

I participated in the annual Spring Bird Count conducted by the membership of the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society. The five-county count was held Saturday, April 27.

The day started off damp and remained so for the duration of the count, but my group managed to elude any downpours of rain. A total of 39 participants in nine parties took part in this year’s count.

Despite less-than-ideal conditions, the count found 155 species of birds, which is slightly above average for this yearly survey of birds in the counties of Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington.

I spent the morning hours dodging rain showers while looking and listening for birds with Jean Potter. We succeeded in finding some birds that also represented first sightings for the year for me, including Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Solitary Sandpiper, Cliff Swallow and Purple Martin.

Some of the exceptional birds for the count included Lesser Scaup, Red-necked Grebe, Sandhill Crane, American Avocet, Black-crowned Night-heron, Northern Harrier, Sora, Herring Gull, Grasshopper Sparrow, Bobolink, Purple Finch and Baltimore Oriole.

I added quite a few species to my 2013 list simply by taking part in the count. The new birds included: Bird No. 118- Blue Grosbeak; Bird No. 119- Yellow-crowned Night-heron; Bird No. 120- Solitary Sandpiper; Bird No. 121- Great Crested Flycatcher; Bird No. 122- Purple Martin; Bird No. 123- Warbling Vireo; Bird No. 124- Gray Catbird; Bird No. 125- Indigo Bunting; and Bird No. 126- Wood Thrush.

For a change, the European Starling was not the most common bird reported. That distinction went to the Cliff Swallow with 549 individuals counted. With 534 individuals found, the American Robin came in second. European Starling was third with 474 individuals.

Other common birds included Tree Swallow (389); Common Grackle (443); American Crow (396); and American Goldfinch (324).

The Ovenbird with 147 individuals inched past the 135 Hooded Warblers counted as the most abundant warbler on the count.

The total list follows:
Canada Goose, 325; Wood Duck, 23; Mallard, 129; Blue-winged Teal, 13; Green-winged Teal, 2; Lesser Scaup, 1; Bufflehead, 26; Red-breasted Merganser, 24; Ruffed Grouse, 2; Wild Turkey, 56; Common Loon, 22; Pied-billed Grebe; 8; Horned Grebe, 1; Red-necked Grebe; 1; and Double-crested Cormorant, 131.
Great Blue Heron, 32; Green Heron, 8; Black-crowned Night-heron, 1; Yellow-crowned Night-heron, 4; Black Vulture, 34; and Turkey Vulture, 91.
Osprey, 12; Bald Eagle, 13; Northern Harrier, 1; Cooper’s Hawk, 5; Broad-winged Hawk, 5; Red-tailed Hawk, 9; and American Kestrel, 9.
Sora, 1; American Coot, 1; Sandhill Crane, 3; Killdeer, 46; American Avocet, 36; Spotted Sandpiper, 33; Solitary Sandpiper, 34; Greater Yellowlegs, 6; Lesser Yellowlegs, 5; Least Sandpiper, 3; Pectoral Sandpiper, 5; and Wilson’s Snipe, 4.
Bonaparte’s Gull, 5; Ring-billed Gull, 17; Herring Gull, 1; Caspian Tern, 1; Forster’s Tern, 1; Rock Pigeon, 66; Eurasian Collared-Dove, 2; and Mourning Dove, 221.
Eastern Screech-Owl, 3; Great Horned Owl, 3; Barred Owl, 4; Northern Saw-whet Owl, 2; Chuck-will’s Widow, 3; and Eastern Whip-poor-will, 13.
Chimney Swift, 220; Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 24; Belted Kingfisher, 28; Red-headed Woodpecker, 4; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 76; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 7; Downy Woodpecker, 30; Hairy Woodpecker, 9; Northern Flicker, 36; and Pileated Woodpecker, 53.
Eastern Wood-Pewee, 1; Acadian Flycatcher, 1; Eastern Phoebe, 40; Great Crested Flycatcher, 6; Eastern Kingbird, 32; Loggerhead Shrike, 1; White-eyed Vireo, 6; Yellow-throated Vireo, 6; Blue-headed Vireo, 53; Warbling Vireo, 5; and Red-eyed Vireo, 72.
Blue Jay, 202; American Crow, 396; Common Raven, 12; Purple Martin, 45; Tree Swallow, 389; Northern Rough-winged Swallow, 111; Cliff Swallow, 549; and Barn Swallow, 266.
Carolina Chickadee, 122; Tufted Titmouse, 124; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 29; Brown Creeper, 3; Carolina Wren, 115; House Wren, 33; Winter Wren, 10; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 98; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 6; and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 8.
Eastern Bluebird, 124; Veery, 5; Wood Thrush, 72; American Robin, 534; Gray Catbird, 5; Northern Mockingbird, 95; Brown Thrasher, 39; European Starling, 474; and American Pipit, 15.
Ovenbird, 147; Worm-eating Warbler, 16; Louisiana Waterthrush, 16; Golden-winged Warbler, 1; Blue-winged Warbler, 1; Black-and-white Warbler, 56; Swainson’s Warbler, 4; Kentucky Warbler, 2; Common Yellowthroat, 11; Hooded Warbler, 135; American Redstart, 7; Northern Parula, 33; Magnolia Warbler, 1; Blackburnian Warbler, 6; Yellow Warbler, 4; Chestnut-sided Warbler, 2; Black-throated Blue Warbler, 58; Palm Warbler, 9; Pine Warbler, 15; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 108; Yellow-throated Warbler, 24; Prairie Warbler, 4; Black-throated Green Warbler, 91; Canada Warbler, 2; and Yellow-breasted Chat, 2.
Eastern Towhee, 168; Chipping Sparrow, 101; Field Sparrow, 40; Savannah Sparrow, 4; Grasshopper Sparrow, 2; Song Sparrow, 211; Swamp Sparrow, 2; White-throated Sparrow, 46; White-crowned Sparrow, 15; and Dark-eyed Junco, 78.
Scarlet Tanager, 22; Northern Cardinal, 245; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 17; Blue Grosbeak, 3; Indigo Bunting, 9; Bobolink, 5; Red-winged Blackbird, 243; Eastern Meadowlark, 105; Common Grackle, 443; Brown-headed Cowbird, 80; Orchard Oriole, 13; Baltimore Oriole, 3; Purple Finch, 5; House Finch, 38; Pine Siskin, 52; American Goldfinch, 324; and House Sparrow, 40.


Even after the count, I continued to add new bird species for the year.

On Monday, April 29, I visited Watauga Point at Watauga Lake during my lunch break. It took some searching, but I found one of two Red-headed Woodpeckers that had been found there on count day. The Red-headed Woodpecker became Bird No. 127 for the year. I tried to get a photo, but the bird kept playing hide-and-seek behind a tree trunk. I also added Scarlet Tanager for Bird No. 128 while visiting this location.

During my visit, I also watched a couple of Common Loons fishing close to shore and managed to get a few quick photos. Other birds present included a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Chipping Sparrows, American Goldfinches, Pine Warblers and Tree Swallows.


I was staying at an apartment complex in north Johnson City while dog-sitting for my brother. On Tuesday, April 30, I heard a buzzy song in nearby fields before leaving for work. I investigated and discovered a singing Grasshopper Sparrow, which became Bird No. 129.

This small sparrow is named for its song, which is very much like that of some insects. The sparrow had selected a patch of weeds in a field of grass to give it the necessary elevation to sing persistently to proclaim its presence to potential mates.


Photo by Bryan StevensThis Common Loon was photographed fishing just off shore at Watauga Point on Watauga Lake in Hampton.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
This Common Loon was photographed fishing just off shore at Watauga Point on Watauga Lake in Hampton.

Make a comment, ask a question or share an observation by calling me at 297-9077 or by sending an email to bstevens@starhq.com or ahoodedwarbler@aol.com. I am also on Facebook.

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