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Wednesday, 03 January 2007 00:00

The Annual Balsam CBC

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The fifth annual Balsam Christmas Bird Count was conducted last Saturday, Dec. 30. The 15-mile diameter circle, which covers a large portion of western Haywood County as well as Balsam Mountain Preserve in Jackson County, is one of more than 1,800 official Audubon count circles. This year marked the 107th annual Audubon CBC.

 

Twelve volunteers recorded 72 species, which is about average for the five-year count. We tallied 69 species the first two years, 75 the third and our highest count was 77, last year.

No new species were added this year, but we did have some good finds. Those included red-crossbill (6) from Cataloochee Ranch, common yellowthroat (1) from Jim Francis’ property on the old Asheville Highway, red-breasted merganser (12), 11 from the Waynesville watershed and one from Lake Logan and red-shouldered hawk (2), one from Howell Mill Road, near the Waynesville Recreation Center and one near Ratcliff Cove Road.

Lake Junaluska provided about a dozen species of waterfowl including canvasback, ring-necked duck, American wigeon, bufflehead, ruddy duck and a record 14 gadwall. Unfortunately, the common loon that was there the day after Christmas seems to have moved on.

Eurasian collared-doves first reported on last year’s CBC were found again this year. They seem to have established themselves in the vicinity of South Main and Allen’s Creek road. Three were recorded last year and two were logged this year. I have seen as many as six in the area.

Eurasian collared-doves were originally found primarily on the Indian subcontinent, but in the early 1900s the species began to expand its range. By 1950 it had reached the British Isles and today it is found as far north as Scandinavia.

The birds were introduced into the Bahamas in the 1970s and by the 1980s they had made it to Florida. Today they are established across the southeastern United States and are rapidly expanding their range northward and westward. While this hearty species is capable of expanding its range on its own it has gotten help across the U.S. from captive breeders and the pet trade.

The missed species on any given CBC are as inexplicable as the rarities that show up. While the weather last Saturday was less than conducive for raptors — cloudy and foggy with some areas recording periods of rain — we logged five species, yet no one had a turkey vulture.

Bob Olthoff and I made two trips to check my feeders, where I have had pine siskins for a couple of weeks and there were none to be seen either time. Fortunately another group did have siskins. But the day after the count, not only were the siskins back but I had about a half dozen purple finches, a species that eluded everyone on count day.

The heart and soul and most of the manpower for the Balsam CBC is provided by the Carolina Field Birders. CFB is a non-dues-paying group of birders who, besides sponsoring the CBC, conduct regular field trips throughout the year. To learn more about the Carolina Field Birders, contact Bob Olthoff at 828.627.2546.

A great big thank you also goes out to Balsam Mountain Preserve, the town of Waynesville and Jim Francis for allowing us to bird on their property.

Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count is the prototype citizen-science project and the longest running ornithological database in the world. The data, which is 100 percent volunteer-generated, has become a crucial aspect of the U.S.’s natural history monitoring. Count data from 1900 to the present is available through the BirdSource at www.birdsource.org a cooperative project of the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

(Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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