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Charlotte Observer: Christmas Bird Count ends with exciting sights

As dawn broke over our day in the field Dec. 27 and the birds began waking up, we really started ticking birds off our list.

Article originally appeared in the Charlotte Observer

By Taylor Piephoff
The 2014-2015 Christmas Bird Count season is over, and I’m tired. I completed my last local count in Charlotte on Dec. 27, then participated in two coastal counts, at Wilmington and Southport/Bald Head Island.

My group of three started the Charlotte count day at Renaissance Park off Tyvola Road. A great horned owl got us off and counting at about 6:15 a.m. on that cold morning. As dawn broke and the birds began waking up, we really started ticking birds off our list, adding red-tailed hawk, golden-crowned kinglets, Wilson’s snipe, white-crowned sparrow, fox sparrow, orange-crowned warbler and horned lark. Three wild turkeys frequent that area. Despite checking for them several times, they remained out of sight.

Next we visited a home where Baltimore orioles have set up residence for the winter. We counted four in sight at one time; the hosts had counted as many as eight earlier that day. We also got a confirmation text from a birder who has been hosting a wintering ruby-throated hummingbird. The bird was indeed sighted that morning. That hummingbird, common during the breeding season, is extremely rare in the winter. That was likely the rarest bird found by anyone.

We spent the afternoon checking small ponds scattered throughout the count area and at Davie Park off Matthews-Pineville Road. The ponds off Latrobe Drive, off Wendover Road, produced great blue heron, hooded mergansers and belted kingfisher. The Beverly Crest community, off Providence Road, produced ruddy ducks and another kingfisher.

Davie Park filled in some gaps in our list with such goodies as a brown creeper, pine warbler and hairy woodpecker. As the day came to an end, I rustled up one last feeding flock of woodland birds that gave us hermit thrush, ruby-crowned kinglets and a very surprising black-and-white warbler. That’s a great bird sighting to end the day on a Piedmont count.

My group finished with 68 total species for the day, a nice total. A tally-up supper at Winghaven gave everyone a chance to relive the day’s excitement with the other counting parties. So no more Christmas counts for 49 more weeks, but I’m already looking at the calendar.

The next big birding event is the Carolina Bird Club’s Winter Meeting in Nags Head at the end of this month.

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