Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016 Winter/Christmas Bird Count

The Herndon Chapter of TOS conducts four bird survey each year. Two summer and winter are centered on Elizabethton, Carter County, Tennessee. This weekend before Christmas was this year’s Christmas Count. Six parties spread out over a given area of Carter County and each year they rotate to give everyone a chance at the different terrain and habitat. Carter County runs from relative lowlands at about 1800 feet and moist to Roan Mountain and South Holston Mountain both at 5,000 feet. We can expect over the county at any time during the winter counts for the weather to run nice a dampness in town to snow and a full gale up high.

For the club, this was the 74th consecutive, annual CBC.

In a small city, habitat is often scare if you’re looking for more exotic and wild birds. We didn’t expect to get turkey but at the city park we had 60 or so bufflehead. And a green-winged teal. Driving through town just hoping for something other than another starling or dove or pigeon, Bryan Stevens spotted a Cooper’s hawk on the church belfry next to the Legion hall. Little corners give up sparrows. Town edges give up hawks and vultures (on most days but not that day).

The purpose of the count is find out what’s there not what we’d like to see that we haven’t seen for every other day of the year. So the club counts one ruffed-grouse equally with the 809 starling (two years ago the number was 2,000+). Three owl species goes on the list just do the three Killdeer, the only plover. Good days and bad. Only two turkey vulture? We’ve had days with none. All the woodpecker group? That’s kind of neat. But, only two warblers species. It goes up and down and sometimes the surprise is rewarding, like four bald eagle.

I was lucky enough to join Chris Soto and Bryan Stevens for the area that enclosed Elizabethton proper including Sycamore Shoals State Park. Mostly cloudy, a bit breezy, but the temperature held about 50 degrees or so. Not a bad day. Not a good day. We had about 35 species. I think the more exciting finds for us were: cedar waxwing, yellow-rumped warbler, gadwall, bufflehead, sapsucker, ruby-crowned kinglet, Cooper’s hawk, and green-winged teal.

For the club, 80 species, 6 parties, 24 observers. The 30-year average is 72. We have noticed a few species no longer seen regularly and a few new ones. Since this covers a variety of territory in a small space irregularities are more likely to occur. Our next survey will be the first of May and covers the five upper-east counties.

Send an e-mail to “” to get more details or click on the link to the right for the “Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of TOS.”


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