.... An online source for news & views of interest to members/friends of The Chapel Hill Bird Club
(photo of E. Towhee by Will Cook)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blog Update

If anyone wishes to send me anything for posting I'll be happy to use it, but as I warned upon initiating this site, I don't really have time to keep generating content on my own right now. Also, the initial impetus for starting the blog -- as a backup to the Club newsletter in the event that Karen Piplani, who wished to retire as newsletter editor, was unable to quickly find a person to assume that role -- is now gone: the very able Judith Fortney stepped forward to take on that responsibility (I believe starting in January!), and so the newsletter will luckily continue without a glitch.

There are still possible purposes a blog could serve for a Club, so I will leave it up and available for now, in the event that I (or someone else) has time to put into it in the future (maybe by next spring). There seem to always be an abundance of news in our wonderful local birding community!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ross's Goose

Again, I won't always mention on the blog all local bird rarities reported on Carolinabirds, but this weekend's bird du jour was a Ross's Goose in NW Wake County, hanging out with Canada Geese. What I like about the report (as initially posted by Nate Swick) is that it came from "a birder in Cary who only recently joined Carolinabirds" and noted "a white goose that she had tentatively ID'ed as a Ross's Goose in the small pond in her housing development in NW Wake County." Wonderful that someone perhaps relatively new to birding, or at least not highly active with local groups, was willing to report an odd bird... and... got it right!

Within hours of being reported, other area birders made their way over to see and photograph the very cooperative "backyard bird." Luckily, Ross's usually stick around an area for awhile.

As usual though, I'm left wondering just how many of these small residential ponds there are in the Triangle that aren't regularly monitored by birders... and how many oddball birds do we miss!? (The Violet-green Swallow of a few weeks back was also at a small private residential pond.)

[photo via Nate Swick]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Of Big Years Near and Far

With all the publicity the new film "The Big Year" is generating (...well, in birding circles anyway) I thought it worth pointing to an older article on one of our own local birders currently engaged in a "Triangle Big Year."
Nate Swick previously did a North Carolina Big Year and this year set his sights on a more do-able project, for a new dad with a busy schedule, confining himself to the Triangle. The local newspaper did a story on his effort last March:


He also reports on his progress from time-to-time at his blog, "The Drinking Bird":


specifically, to follow his progress (currently over 200 species), see here:


(His October 19th post, by the way, is a review of the current film.)

Some of our Triangle birders have done statewide 'big years' in the past. I can't recall if any locals have done a 'North American big year,' or for that matter a 'Triangle big year' akin to Nate's. Feel free to write in your thoughts or experience if you have.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Violet-green Swallow!

I try not to spend too much time duplicating information from Carolinabirds here, but some stories can't be ignored... When a local birder stumbles upon a species from the far western U.S. right in the middle of residential Chapel Hill (indeed, a first state record for the species), well I gotta repeat the story!

On Saturday Ali Iyoob sent this simple message to Carolinabirds:

"Just saw and photographed a Violet-green Swallow over a pond behind an apt complex in Chapel hill. Address is 500 Umstead Street."

And soon thereafter he added the photo:


Especially exciting to me because this small pond is very near my old stomping grounds, and not far from where I live now (although still on private property that is only semi-accessible). Several folks posted their congrats to Ali, and assuming the official state rare bird folks support the identification what a GREAT find!
But even more bizarre, excellent local birder Tom Driscoll later almost casually posted to Carolinabirds that he too had seen a lone Violet-green Swallow among a flock of Tree Swallows at Penny's Bend near the Eno River in NE Durham on Saturday as well!

I know a first state record for this species was also recorded in Virginia earlier this year, but I don't know what other history of reports there are for the East Coast or Southeast??? -- maybe someone tied into eBird or other sources can fill us in....
In short, I'm faced with my usual conundrum of wondering whether this bird is suddenly showing up in the East in greater numbers (and if so, for gosh sakes WHYYYY?), or has it actually been among us now for awhile (blending in easily with swallow flocks), but finally getting recorded more readily with more active, experienced birders out-and-about in the field???

[image via US National Park Service] 

Addendum:  From the additional information I've now seen this is indeed a VERY rare sighting for the east coast -- and not part of any recent spurt of reports, so again huge congrats to Ali and Tom for these finds (personally, I'm willing to assume both reports are valid, though the state records committee hasn't passed judgment on either yet, nor has anyone on followup re-located the birds thus far).
...Keep watchin' those swallow swarms!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Is there anyone who doesn't like hummingbirds!? There's hardly a more irresistible bird species out there. Typing "hummingbirds" into Google I got over 7.5 million hits, clearly indicating their popularity.

So just some hummingbird links today as the li'l guys make their way across the Southeast on migration to wintering grounds across the Gulf of Mexico:

The Bird Club's September meeting welcomed Kathy Roggenkamp to tell us about her experience assisting Bill Hilton Jr. on some of his Ruby-throated Hummingbird studies in exotic places, known as "Operation Ruby-throat."

Lanny Chambers has a long-running and popular website on hummers, known simply as Hummingbirds.net: http://www.hummingbirds.net/

One of the most highly recognized organizations intensely studying hummers is Bob and Martha Sargent's Hummingbird Study Group.

Our own Triangle's Susan Campbell has been involved with the Sargents' work for quite some time now. Probably most Club members have met Susan or attended one of her talks or demonstrations over the years, always to much delight and education. You can read more on her work here:


And remember if it's practical for you to do so (and keep them thawed) leave those hummingbird feeders up through the winter, because you just never know who might stop by for a visit... and if a hummer does (and it probably WON'T be a Ruby-throat), Susan will want to know about it.

Addendum: just occurred to me that there are also a gazillion clips on YouTube for viewing hummingbirds. You could spend most of a day watching them!:


AND, in the recent past, UStream has had a number of absolutely wonderful (and addictive!) live webcams (that eat a fair amount of bandwidth) of active hummingbird nests. Here's just one of them:

[RT Hummingbird pic via USFWS}

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bald Cypress in the Triangle

Not exactly birding subject matter, but I found a habitat-related article in this morning's "Chapel Hill News" interesting enough to pass along...
It's about (long-time Sierra Club activist/environmentalist) Bill Bracey's multi-year project to establish a Bald Cypress tree population in the Triangle (around Jordan Lake). This was the first I recall hearing of the endeavor which I find quite fascinating, even if the results have been less-than-desired: out of 16,000 saplings planted(!), possibly 500 still survive... with beavers responsible for much of the damage/population control!
Hope you enjoy the piece as much as I did:


[pic of Bald Cypress from Congaree NWR in S. Carolina, via Wikimedia Commons]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cooper's or Sharpie....?

One of our local birders has sent along some pics of a visitor to their backyard deck, and would like to resolve if it is a (immature) Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk. It can of course be difficult to accurately adjudge size and precise features from photos, but 4 pics are below:

My own impression is that it is a Cooper's (and in my experience they are now FAR more common in residential areas than Sharpies locally, even though decades ago the reverse was true), but still curious for opinions with more expertise....

Friday, September 9, 2011

Laughing With Us or At Us...?

Many have probably read Mark Obmascik's  "The Big Year" since it originally came out over 10 years ago, telling a tale from the world of "competitive birding." Put that phrase together with the names Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson and you've got the makings of a potential comedy hit.
The film version of "The Big Year" is now due out in mid-October and in anticipation it's getting plenty of mention on birding sites and listservs. Birders generally have a pretty good sense of humor so most are looking forward to it, but some fear it may only further extend a stereotype of birdwatching (among non-birders) that birders would prefer to get away from.

At any rate, the movie trailer is available on YouTube here:


Monday, September 5, 2011

Have Binoculars Will Travel...

Many Club members love traveling... and seeing birds along the way, well all the better! Eco-tourism is in fact big business these days, both within North America and to more exotic locales. In the right-hand column I directly link to Simon Thompson's "Ventures Birding Tours" site because I've always heard great things about it and it is Carolina home-grown (based in Asheville but with a wide variety of tours in the Carolinas, elsewhere across N. America, and internationally). But there are certainly a great many other tour groups to consider, depending on your interests and desired destinations.

Here are 4 of the big ones:


Victor Emanuel Tours:



Many more companies can be found from this general site:


and more information available here:


If you'd like to plug some tour group that you had a great experience with, or a locale that you think Club members might overlook but ought consider, feel free to mention it in the comments below.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reading List

David Lenat of Raleigh recently posted on Carolinabirds listserv that he'd just re-read the 1950's Peterson/Fisher classic "Wild America" which inspired him to seek out further birding reading adventures. He sought suggestions from Carolinabirders... and, he got them (I think there's 100 or more here)! He posted the list of suggestions he has thus far received in the following post:


Great choices (and variety)! especially if you're looking for some material to curl up with during the winter months ahead. I'm not sure how long the above link will work before the post is archived, so if you see some volumes that look interesting to you copy them down now, while they're in front of you... and head for the local library or bookstore.

Friday, August 26, 2011

(Potential) Hurricane Birds

With Hurricane Irene set to hit our coast this weekend I thought it might be worth re-looking at the amazing list of bird species that showed up at Jordan and/or Falls Lake when Hurricane Fran came barreling through in 1996; especially for any of you who weren't living in the area back then. (All sightings from Sept. 6-7 of that year):

Black-capped Petrel   
Sooty Shearwater
Audubon's Shearwater   
Leach's Storm-Petrel   
Wilson's Storm-Petrel   
Storm-Petrel Sp.   
Cattle Egret   
Black-bellied Plover   
Semi-palmated Plover   
Marbled Godwit   
Ruddy Tumstone   
Buff-breasted Sandpiper   
Short-billed Dowitcher   
Red-necked Phalarope   
Parasitic Jaeger   
Laughing Gull   
Great Black-backed Gull   
Caspian Tern   
Royal Tem   
Sandwich Tem   
Common Tern   
Forster's Tern   
Least Tem   
Bridled Tern   
Sooty Tem   
Black Tem   
Black Skimmer    

Not a bad list for the Carolina Piedmont! The greatest numbers (for the 2 lakes combined) were: 257 Laughing Gulls, 185 Common Terns, and 135 Royal Terns.

Irene isn't expected to carry the force, nor venture as far inland, as Fran did, but nonetheless, assuming the roads are passable, you can expect a number of birders to show up at our local lakes, likely with some interesting reports, as the hurricane passes through. (The Chapel Hill Bird Club has scheduled an outing to Jordan Saturday morning, weather permitting.)