Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter Bird Count, Carter County, 2008

The Lee and Lois Herndon Bird Club of Elizabethton, Tenn., has held quarterly surveys for about 50 years as part of the Audubon Society's nationwide winter counts. For Herdon, the winter count covers Carter County which borders North Carolina and ranges in elevations from about 1800' in Elizabethton to 5500' at Carver's Gap. Or higher. The weather over the years, I am told, has ranged from really nice (like this past weekend Dec. 14, 2008,) to blanketed with fog and snow. There is an annual count on Roan Mountain that seems routinely blizzardy.

This may have been my first winter count (although I've been told differently). Joe McGuiness lead myself, Kim Stroud, Dianne Draper, Don Holt, and Brookie and Jean Potter. Our area was from near Elizabethton to the overlook on Watauga Lake. The prime spots are the Raser Farm and Wilbur Lake. I'll attempt to make map coordinates for both and post them here.

We had fifty species: Bald eagle, bluebird, phoebe, cooper hawk, kestral, TV, ring-neck duck, bufflehead, and assorted city birds. Wilbur Lake is a prime spot for wintering waterfowl and eagle. The bufflehead can easily number 200. Canada geese number 100-150. The lake is cold. The weather is wintry. There's plenty of small fish and duck weed.

Besides, on a clear day, Wilbur Lake is just plain beautiful. [Search google map for Wilbur Lake Tennessee.]

Monday, December 08, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I made a quick stop today (Sunday, December 7 at the swimming area on Boone Lake
outside Gray, Tennessee. The sun was well up, it was clear sky, chilly wind. It is early December, after all. This particular spot is a very popular swimmin’ hole in the summer and at the same time attracts waterfowl and songbirds but not many waders. During the winter we get gulls and the occasional Osprey. Below the dam sometimes you will find night heron, great blue, some mallard, and, once upon a time, black-legged kitiwake.

The gulls will congregate along the shoreline furthest from where it is convenient for viewing. It never fails. And, they are quite skittish. It does not take much for them to hit the wing and hold their reunion on the other side of the lake.

When the TVA opens up the dam the churning downstream attracts the gulls who seem to have a signal to head towards the food. There are, of course, a few stragglers not let in on the secret gull-sign for food.

A few years ago during the winter season I stopped by here early one morning. There was flock of Canada geese browsing in the grass. I wasn’t paying much attention until, quite suddenly, they all stood at attention with beaks upward. All alike as if frozen statues. From out the trees came a Northern Harrier who glided past us all and headed out over the dam and down river. A few moments passed and the geese resumed their grazing as if nothing had happened.

I asked Dr. Fred Alsop, later, what I might have seen and he allowed that maybe it had been a reflexive action that when the outline of the harrier was spotted the flock was alerted and immediately stood still, all eyes on the sky, until the danger had passed. It was something to see. I just stood there, like an idiot, with my mouth open, eyes trying to take it all in.

Keep an eye on Herndon Bird Club for more daily results. There are sightings coming all the time from Boone Lake and Boone Dam.