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Feathered Friends – Club holds 51st annual Fall Bird Count

Northern flickers made a strong showing on the 51st consecutive Fall Bird Count. Eighty of these woodpeckers were found by count participants spread across the five-county area of Northeast Tennessee. (Photo by NatureLady/Pixabay.com)

By Bryan Stevens

The Elizabethton Bird Club held its 51st consecutive Fall Bird Count Saturday, Sept. 26, with 48 observers in 18 parties. The participants were dispersed more than normal due to social distancing protocols. This is the third seasonal count conducted since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic.

The area covered included all of Carter County, as well as parts of the adjacent counties of Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington. A total of 132 species were tallied, which is above the recent 30-year average of 125 species. The all-time high on this count was 137 species set in 1993.

Some interesting finds included a Northern bobwhite covey near the community of Bowmantown in Washington County. Such high numbers of bobwhites have become increasingly rare in recent years. Thirteen unidentified species of Empidonax flycatchers were found, but these birds do not count into the total number of species. These small flycatchers are so similar in appearance that their song must usually be heard to confirm identification. In fall migration, however, these flycatchers go silent for the most part.  A yellow-bellied flycatcher and two least flycatchers were identified.

A total of 23 species of warblers were found, including such interesting finds as golden-winged warbler, blackpoll warbler and Wilson’s warbler. European starling proved the most abundant bird with 1,757 individuals counted. Other common birds for the count included Canada goose (1,220), rock pigeon (629) and chimney swift (478).

The participants for the 2020 Fall Bird Count included: Fred Alsop, Rob Armistead, Betty Bailey, Gary Bailey, Jerry Bevins, Rob Biller, Debi Campbell, J.G. Campbell, Ron Carrico, Robin Cooper, Catherine Cummins, Dianne Draper, Glen Eller, Harry Lee Farthing, Bambi Fincher, Dave Gardner, Tammy Griffey, Bill Grigsby, Jean Henson, Neal Henson, Jacki Hinshaw, Don Holt, David Kirschke, Rick Knight, Roy Knispel, Richard Lewis, Dianna Lynne, Vern Maddux, Joe McGuiness, Cathy McNeil, Tom McNeil, Eric Middlemas, Harry Norman, Susan Peters, Brookie Potter, Jean Potter, Sherrie Quillen, Pete Range, Ken Rea, Judith Reid, Judi Sawyer, Chris Soto, Michele Sparks, Bryan Stevens, Kim Stroud, Scott Turner, Charles Warden, Joyce Watson; plus Connie Irick, David Irick, and Peggy Stevens as feeder watchers.

There were no glaring misses, but shorebirds were scarce with not much available habitat this year. Birds that might have been expected for a fall count but were not found included loggerhead shrike, winter wren, yellow-rumped warbler, savannah sparrow, blue grosbeak and bobolink.

“All in all, it was a very good count,” said long-time compiler Rick Knight. “Thanks to all who participated.”

The list: Canada goose, 1,220; wood duck, 71; mallard, 219; blue-winged teal, 27, Northern bobwhite, 10; ruffed grouse, 2; and wild turkey, 66. Common loon, 1; pied-billed grebe, 11; double-crested cormorant, 62; great blue heron, 37; great egret, 5; green heron, 4; black-crowned night-heron, 2; and yellow-crowned night-heron, 1.

Black vulture, 141; turkey vulture, 191; osprey, 14; Northern harrier, 1; sharp-shinned hawk, 3; Cooper’s hawk, 11; bald eagle, 15; red-shouldered hawk, 2; broad-winged hawk, 4; and red-tailed hawk, 14.

Killdeer, 54; greater yellowlegs, 1; American woodcock, 1; Caspian tern, 3; rock pigeon, 629; Eurasian collared-dove, 11; and mourning dove, 355.

Yellow-billed cuckoo, 4; Eastern screech-owl, 28; great horned owl, 2; barred owl, 6; Northern saw-whet owl, 1; and common nighthawk, 46.

Chimney swift, 478; ruby-throated hummingbird, 34; belted kingfisher, 29; red-headed woodpecker, 2; red-bellied woodpecker, 103; yellow-bellied sapsucker,  6; downy woodpecker, 82; hairy woodpecker, 18; Northern flicker, 80; and pileated woodpecker, 36.

American kestrel, 17; merlin, 2; peregrine falcon, 1; Eastern wood-pewee, 34; yellow-bellied flycatcher, 1; least flycatcher, 2; Empidonax species, 13; Eastern phoebe, 124; and Eastern kingbird, 4.

White-eyed vireo, 3; yellow-throated vireo, 5; blue-headed vireo, 16; warbling vireo, 1; Philadelphia vireo, 1; red-eyed vireo, 34; blue jay, 578; American crow, 503; common raven, 14.

Tree swallow, 274; barn swallow, 15; Carolina chickadee,  251; tufted titmouse, 208; red-breasted nuthatch, 18; white-breasted nuthatch, 80; and brown creeper, 1.

House wren, 10; Carolina wren, 285; blue-gray gnatcatcher, 10; golden-crowned kinglet, 7; and ruby-crowned Kinglet, 2

Eastern bluebird, 246; veery, 3; gray-cheeked thrush, 10; Swainson’s thrush, 193; hermit thrush, 1; wood thrush, 19; American robin,  574; gray catbird,  85; brown thrasher, 27; Northern mockingbird, 126; European starling, 1,757; American pipit, 2; and cedar waxwing, 312.

Ovenbird, 2; Northern waterthrush, 12; golden-winged warbler, 1; black-and-white warbler, 2; Tennessee warbler, 52; common yellowthroat, 32; hooded warbler, 9; American redstart, 90; Cape May warbler, 32; Northern parula,12; magnolia warbler, 29; bay-breasted warbler, 45; Blackburnian warbler,16; chestnut-sided warbler, 15; blackpoll warbler, 3; black-throated Blue  warbler, 4;  palm warbler,  65; pine warbler, 16; yellow-throated warbler, 7; prairie warbler,  2;  black-throated green warbler, 18; Canada warbler,  2; and Wilson’s warbler,  2.

Eastern towhee, 80; chipping sparrow,  41; field sparrow,  26; song sparrow, 116; swamp sparrow, 1; and dark-eyed junco, 26.

Summer tanager,  3; scarlet tanager. 40; Northern cardinal, 251; rose-breasted grosbeak, 119; and indigo bunting, 37.

Red-winged blackbird,  209; Eastern meadowlark,  17; common grackle,  54; brown-headed cowbird,  8;  house finch, 76; pine siskin, 4; American goldfinch, 303; and house sparrow, 18.