Monthly Archives: October 2014

Owls perfectly suited to reign once the sun sets

It was a frosty morning on Simerly Creek on Oct. 20, and the sunrise had given a pink hue to some overhead clouds for a nice enhancement of the morning. From the wooded hollow across the road, I heard a very vocal Eastern Screech-Owl greeting the day with trembling wails. Although Eastern Screech-Owls are normally nocturnal, they can be most active within a couple of hours of both sunset and sunrise. Although I was headed to work, perhaps this particular owl was, in its own way, sending a message of “Good night and sleep tight.”

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service The tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl nests on several of the region's higher mountains.

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl nests on several of the region’s higher mountains.

The calling owl also reminded me that we’ll celebrate Halloween later this week. It’s the one night of the year that we become acutely aware of things that go bump in the night. Of course, what you must also take into consideration are those nocturnal birds that glide through the darkness on nearly silent wings.

Ghouls and goblins can be dismissed as mere apparitions of the imagination. Some real-life feathered phantoms, however, do roam the darkness, perhaps even in your own backyard. Chances are, you have more likely heard them rather than to have seen them.

If you do happen to hear anything slightly unusual this coming Halloween night, listen carefully. It’s a safe bet that the sound — whether it’s a deep, resonant hoot or a trembling wail — might just be produced by an owl.
Several species of owls reside in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee, including Eastern screech-owl, barred owl, barn owl and great horned owl. A fifth owl, the tiny Northern saw-whet owl, can be found at some high-elevation locations. A few other owls have made sporadic appearances in the region, including long-eared owl, short-eared owl and even snowy owl.

Photo by Bryan Stevens An Eastern Screech-Owl perches in the branches of an Eastern hemlock.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
An Eastern Screech-Owl perches in the branches of an Eastern hemlock.

The most common — and two of my favorites — are the large great horned owl and the small Eastern screech-owl.

The great horned owl is widespread in the Americas and is one of the more frequently encountered owls in the region. A fearsome nocturnal predator, the great horned owl has rightly earned the name “Tiger of the Night.”

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Photo by Bryan Stevens A Great Horned Owl surveys the audience during a raptor show at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga.

Although rabbits are its most common prey, this large owl is not a finicky predator. This owl has been known to capture and consume everything from armadillos and muskrats to great blue herons and young American alligators. They will also prey on various amphibians, fish, crustaceans and even insects. The great horned owl is also known to prey on smaller owls, which includes almost all of the other owls found in the region.
All owls are extremely beneficial predators. The tiny Eastern screech-owl feeds on mice, insects, lizards, crayfish and the occasional bird. If not for owls and other predators, prey species — whether rodents or insects — would multiply beyond the means of the environment to support them. Anyone facing the problem of mice and rats seeking an easier living inside a human home can appreciate the role played by predatory owls.
Although the Eastern screech-owl’s only about 10 inches long, it has a wingspan of 20 to 24 inches. By comparison, the great horned owl is about 25 inches long with an equally impressive wingspan of between three and five feet. The structure of an owl’s feathers are what enables these winged predators to fly silently through the shadows.

Otus_asio_audubon

Early naturalist John James Audubon painted this family of Eastern Screech-Owls.

Many species of owls have proven capable of thriving even in the face of human alteration of the environment. Both the great horned owl and the Eastern screech-owl are known to hunt in both rural and urban areas. They also can make a home in a suburban park. In fact, the great horned owl has proven extremely adaptable and can be found in such varied habitats as forests, swamps and deserts.
For the average person the term “owl” is representative of what is actually an extremely diverse family of birds. Worldwide, there are about 220 species of owls varying in size and habits.
In North America owls range in size from such tiny species as the sparrow-sized elf owl of the southwestern United States to the continent-ranging great horned owl. Humans have come up with some descriptive names for various owls around the world. A sampling of these names includes fearful owl, pharaoh eagle-owl, collared owlet, pearl-spotted owlet, least pygmy-owl, red-chested owlet, buff-fronted owl, Stygian owl, vermiculated fishing-owl, black-and-white owl, bare-legged owl, maned owl, bearded screech-owl, spectacled owl and golden-masked owl.
Most people become aware of the presence of an owl by hearing its call. Not all owls, however, produce a “who who” call. For instance, the Eastern screech-owl’s calls are haunting, shivering wails. The deep hoots of a great horned owl are incredibly impressive. The barred owl boasts quite a vocabulary of calls, including hoots, cackles and chilling screams.

Photo by Bryan Stevens A Barred Owl rests on a perch during an educational raptor program offered at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
A Barred Owl rests on a perch during an educational raptor program offered at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga.

I’ve seen great horned owls in Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and Utah in environments ranging from woodlands to coastal wetlands. This owl is one of the first birds to nest each year, starting as early as late January and early February.

Owls, according to Linda Spencer, author of “Knock on Wood: A Serendipitous Selection of Superstitions,” have inspired a mixed bag of superstitions ever since humans stood up. Owls have long been associated with the forces of both good and evil. The “hoot” or call of an owl is believed by people of many cultures to foretell death. There are some interesting ways to counter the ominous hoot of an owl, according to Spencer. Means of warding off the evil owl power include putting irons in your fire, throwing salt, pepper and vinegar on the fire, tying a knot or taking one’s clothes off, turning them inside out and putting them back on.

According to Laura Martin, author of “The Folklore of Birds,” one of the earliest human drawings depicting owls dates back to the early Paleolithic period. The scene is of a family of snowy owls painted on a cave wall in France.

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Owls have also entered the culture as symbols of wisdom and goodness. The wise old owl, Martin writes, dates back to the time of King Arthur. Martin also notes that the sorcerer Merlin was always shown with an owl on his shoulder. She also explains that during the Middle Ages owls became symbols of learning and intelligence. Martin also reveals that Greeks didn’t fear owls as did the Romans. In fact, the owl was the sacred mascot of the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena.
She also delves into owl lore in Japan, where pictures and figures of owls are placed in homes to ward off famine or epidemics. There is some logic to this practice since owls can help prevent such disasters by keeping rodents in check. As well as being carriers of disease, rodents can deplete stores of grain.

Photo by Bryan Stevens A Burrowing Owl photographed in 2006 at Antelope Island State Park in Utah.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
A Burrowing Owl photographed in 2006 at Antelope Island State Park in Utah.

The main fascination humans hold for owls rests in their mystery. Owls, as mainly nocturnal creatures, rarely cross paths with us.

Owls have many adaptations that help them stake out their claim on the night hours. Owls possess large eyes with binocular vision and extremely accurate depth perception — which also make them seem more expressive to human observers.
Owls cannot completely rotate their heads, but they come close. Owls are flexible enough to be able to turn their heads in a 270-degree arc, or three-quarters of the way around.
Owls have keen hearing to go with their excellent eyesight. In fact, owls don’t even need to see their prey to capture it. Tests with barn owls in total darkness have shown that they are capable of catching mice by hearing alone. An owl’s prominent facial disk directs sounds toward their ears. The “ear tufts” on the great horned owl and some other relatives are ornamental feathers, and not actual ears.
There’s one more owl-related myth I forgot to mention. There’s a Chinese belief that owls snatch the souls of unwary people — just something you should know if you are out and about after dark on Halloween night.

Photo by Bryan Stevens An Eastern Screech-Owl at rest in a roosting hole in a large sycamore tree.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
An Eastern Screech-Owl at rest in a roosting hole in a large sycamore tree.

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Pileated Woodpecker has inspired various common names

Photo courtesy of Tom and Helen Stetler A Pileated Woodpecker forages on a willow tree at the Elizabethton home of Tom and Helen Stetler.

Photo courtesy of Tom and Helen Stetler
A Pileated Woodpecker forages on a willow tree at the Elizabethton home of Tom and Helen Stetler.

I received an email recently from Tom and Helen Stetler. The Stetlers live in Elizabethton and often attend bird walks offered by the Elizabethton Bird Club.

“We have a Pileated Woodpecker working on our dead willow tree for the past two days,” Tom wrote in the email. “It has made a fairly large hole at the base of the tree. The diameter at the base is about eight inches. It looks like there are some bugs inside the tree, maybe some termites.”

He added an interesting tidbit of information about Pileated Woodpeckers.

“Our old-timey neighbor calls it a wood hen,” Tom wrote in the email.

The Pileated Woodpecker has actually had an abundance of common names associated with it.

English naturalist Mark Catesby, who died in 1749, gave this large bird the name of “Large Red-crested Woodpecker.” The Swedish botanist apparently gave the woodpecker the scientific name of Dryocopus pileatus.

A painting of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker by Mark Catesby, an English naturalist.

A painting of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker by Mark Catesby, an English naturalist.

Another English naturalist, John Latham, apparently gave the bird the common name of Pileated Woodpecker, basing the name on the scientific name established by Linnaeus.

Beyond this history of how the bird eventually got the name Pileated Woodpecker, there are a lot of folk names for this particular bird, including such interesting ones as “King of the Woods” and “Stump Breaker.”

The loud vocalization of this woodpecker has also inspired names such as Wood Hen as mentioned by Tom in his email. Other names along these lines include “Indian Hen” and “Laughing Woodpecker.”

If anyone knows of other common names for the Pileated Woodpecker, I’d enjoy hearing about them.

Depending on whether you believe that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker still exists somewhere in Cuba or Arkansas, the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest of North America’s woodpeckers.

Pileated Woodpeckers are cavity-nesting birds, and they use their large, stout bills to efficiently excavate their own nesting cavities in dead or dying trees. These cavities can be used in later nesting seasons by such cavity-nesting birds, such as Eastern Screech-owls and Wood Ducks, that are incapable of excavating their own nesting cavities.

Male Pileated Woodpecker show a red whisker stripe on the side of the face that is absent in the female. Otherwise, they look similar.

These large woodpeckers — they can reach a length of about 19 inches — often forage close to the ground on old stumps or fallen logs.

The Pileated Woodpecker is widespread in the United States and Canada, favoring wooded areas in both countries. This woodpecker has proven adaptable, now thriving even in suburban areas offering sufficient woodland habitat.

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Photo by Bryan Stevens A Northern Flicker calls from atop a utility pole.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
A Northern Flicker calls from atop a utility pole.

Pileated Woodpecker was among the 49 species of birds found during the third of the four Saturday Bird Walks being held in October. This walk took place on Oct. 18 at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton.

A total of 10 participants took part in the Saturday bird walk at Sycamore Shoals. A persistent wind made it feel cool, and we spent some of the walk enjoying sunshine that gradually gave way to overcast skies.

The walk yielded observations of 49 species of birds, including quite a few surprises.

A flock of 18 Great Egrets that flew over our heads, following the course of the Watauga River, was perhaps one of the more unanticipated moments.

Photo by Bryan Stevens An American Coot on the Watauga River.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
An American Coot on the Watauga River.

I also enjoyed some seasonal firsts, including the first American Coot I have seen this fall. The Ring-billed Gull that soared repeatedly overhead was also a first autumn observation. Both coots and gulls spend the winter months at area lakes, rivers and, quite often, parking lots. The winter of 2013-2014 saw a large flock of Ring-billed Gulls spending its days in the parking lot at the Elizabethton Wal-Mart.

For this far into October, we also did fairly well with warblers, finding five species — Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped and Palm — during the walk along the park’s trails.

Photo by Bryan Stevens A Palm Warbler forages along a chain-link fence.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
A Palm Warbler forages along a chain-link fence.

In addition to Pileated Woodpecker, other woodpeckers found during the walk included Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Other species found included Canada Goose, Mallard, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle, House Finch and American Goldfinch.

The last of the planned October Saturday bird walks will begin at 8 a.m. from the parking lot at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park on Oct. 26. The public is welcome. Bring binoculars to increase your viewing enjoyment.

For more information, email ahoodedwarbler@aol.com or call the park at 543-5808. Readers are welcome to follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ahoodedwarbler.

Photo by Bryan Stevens An Eastern Phoebe perches in a sapling.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
An Eastern Phoebe perches in a sapling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October Saturday Bird Walks at Sycamore Shoals producing interesting sightings

Yellowthroated

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                    A female Common Yellowthroat entertained bird walk attendees as she foraged among Joe-Pye Weed in the butterfly garden at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.

It’s funny how you can go most of the year without seeing a certain bird. Then, the drought ends and you enjoy a spike in the numbers of sighting within a short amount of time.

A female Common Yellowthroat became a highlight of the first of this year’s October bird walks at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park, which was well attended with nine participants. The bird was foraging in the flower heads of Joe-Pye Weed in the butterfly garden at the park.

The Elizabethton Bird Club has offered these hikes for more than a decade at the park. Prior to conducting the walks at Sycamore Shoals, the club also led October hikes at Winged Deer Park in Johnson City and along the linear walking trail in Erwin.

BWteal-Flock

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                 A portion of the flock of 104 Blue-winged Teal found on the first of this year’s October Saturday Bird Walks.

Tess Cumbie, a former resident of Buladean, N.C., came up with the idea for the walks back in the late 1990s.

The first of this year’s walks at Sycamore Shoals took place on Saturday, Oct. 4. A raft of 104 Blue-winged Teal on the Watauga River ranked as another highlight of that morning’s bird walk. Pied-billed Grebes, Mallards, Wood Ducks and Canada Geese were also present on the river.

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Photo by Bryan Stevens                                     A Maple Spanworm Moth warms itself during the chilly morning bird walk.

Other birds found included  Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Chimney Swift, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Eastern Bluebird, Swainson’s Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird,  European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Magnolia Warbler,  Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Meadowlark, House Finch and American Goldfinch.

When not looking at birds, participants enjoyed diversions such as the Maple Spanworm Moth blending with the fallen leaves on the gravel walking trails. I had never seen this particular moth, which spent some time warming itself on one of my fingers.

Although well attended by participants from as far as Abingdon, Va., the weather that greeted us was quite frigid. The cold appeared to bother us more than it affected the birds.

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A male Wood Duck landed, briefly, on the fish pond on the morning of Oct. 5. If I hadn’t been outdoors at the time, he might have stayed longer. When I moved, he flew. It’s the first visit here at home from a Wood Duck in several years. Coincidentally, the last visit also took place in early October.

Flower-bed

Photo by Bryan Stevens              This densely-planted flower bed on the ETSU campus provided cover for a migrating Common Yellowthroat.

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I am beginning to find that the campus at East Tennessee State University can produce some fun bird sightings. After witnessing a Cooper’s Hawk nearly catch a squirrel from the top branches of a tall tree near Gilbreath Hall, I have been paying closer attention to those feathered friends that visit the campus.

During a Sunday evening stroll on Oct. 6, I found a Common Yellowthroat in a well-planted flower bed. So, I have added my first warbler to my ETSU list. I also saw a Red-bellied Woodpecker flying over the Culp Center during the same walk.

It also got me to thinking about how many Common Yellowthroats I have been seeing this fall.

When I posted about the sighting on Facebook, Cathy Myers commented and informed me that she had recently observed a Rose-breasted Grosbeak on the campus.

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Catbird

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                          Gray Catbirds, such as this one, have been found on the first of the Saturday Bird Walks this October at Sycamore Shoals.

At the second of the four Saturday Bird Walks scheduled this October, rain threatened to impede the stroll. Fortunately, the showers held off until after the walk on Oct. 11 concluded at about 9:30 a.m.

The second of the October Saturday Bird Walks produced several highlights, including a duel between an Osprey and an adult Bald Eagle over the Watauga River, as well as four species of warblers — Tennessee, Bay-breasted, Palm and Yellow-rumped — and other birds, including Chimney Swift, Mockingbird, Starling, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, Carolina Wren, Mourning Dove, Eastern Bluebird, Mallard, Carolina Chickadee, Canada Goose, Goldfinch, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Crow, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow and Downy Woodpecker.

Although we had fewer participants on this walk, we enjoyed better observations of the birds. One exciting moment involved the flock of irate Blue Jays gathered to scold a Red-tailed Hawk that had flown too close for comfort.

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Two more Saturday Bird Walks remain during October. They will be held on Oct. 18 and Oct. 25. The public is welcome to these free strolls along the walking trails at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park. Bring binoculars to increase your viewing enjoyment.

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Common_Yellowthroat (1)

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service                                                  A male Common Yellowthroat surveys his surroundings from a prominent perch.

The Common Yellowthroat is a warbler that is quite fond of weedy, damp habitats. Marshes and other wetlands are preferred habitat during the nesting season, although a few of these birds are also present in more dry habitats.

In migration, any weedy corner might attract one of these warblers. In fact, the one I found on the ETSU campus remained elusive in a raised concrete bed containing a thick planting of flowers and shrubs.

Photo by Bryan Stevens A male Common Yellowthroat visits an overgrown thicket during fall migration. Photo by Bryan Stevens A male Common Yellowthroat visits an overgrown thicket during fall migration.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
A male Common Yellowthroat visits an overgrown thicket during fall migration.

The Common Yellowthroat belongs to the genus of warblers known as Geothlypis, which also includes the related Bahama Yellowthroat, Hooded Yellowthroat, Masked Yellowthroat, Black-polled Yellowthroat and Gray-crowned Yellowthroat. These other species are found in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.

Recent classification of the Geothlypis warblers has led to the inclusion of three other warblers — MacGillivray’s, Mourning and Kentucky — being shuffled into this genus.

Although fond of skulking in deep vegetation, most Common Yellowthroats are curious birds and will allow brief glimpses. The males also betray their presence with a loud, easily recognized song that sounds very much like “Witchety, Witchety, Witchety, Witch.”

Yellowthroat-PyeWeeDForage

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                    The female Common Yellowthroat lacks the male’s black face mask.

Male and female yellowthroats show a bright, yellow throat. Males also sport a black mask bordered with a silvery-white line, and the male’s throat is usually a brighter yellow. Although males will sing in the open during the nesting season, these birds usually prefer to remain hidden from view as they go about their daily routines.

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To learn more about birds and other topics from the natural world, friend Stevens on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ahoodedwarbler. He is always posting about local birds, wildlife, flowers, insects and much more. If you have a question, wish to make a comment or share a sighting, email ahoodedwarbler@aol.com.

Photo by Bryan Stevens

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                                            A flock of Canada Geese forage in a field near the Bell Cemetery in the Limestone Cove community of Unicoi County on a recent October afternoon.

Annual Fall Bird Count tallies 128 species for Northeast Tennessee

Photo by Bryan Stevens A male Common Yellowthroat was one of 24 species of warblers found on this year's Fall Bird Count.

Photo by Bryan Stevens
A male Common Yellowthroat was one of 24 species of warblers found on this year’s Fall Bird Count.

 
The 45th consecutive Fall Bird Count was held on Saturday, Sept. 27 with 32 observers in eight parties covering Carter County and parts of adjacent counties, including Unicoi, Washington, Sullivan and Johnson.
The 45th consecutive Fall Bird Count was held on Saturday, Sept. 27 with 32 observers in eight parties covering Carter County and parts of adjacent counties, including Unicoi, Washington, Sullivan and Johnson.
The annual count is conducted by members of the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society, also known as the Elizabethton Bird Club.
 Rick Knight, long-time compiler for the count, reported a total of 128 species was found, slightly above the average of 125 species over the last 30 years. He noted that the all-time high on this count was 137 species in 1993.
The total included 23 species of warblers, compared to an average of 22 warbler species for the last 20 years. The number of warbler species on this count has ranged from a low of 16 species to a high of 27 over the years.
Several finds reported from Unicoi County were considered quite exceptional, including Northern Saw-whet Owls on Unaka Mountain and a Double-crested Cormorant on one of the ponds along the linear walking trail near McDonalds in Erwin. 

Rednecked_Phalarope

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service                                                    A Red-necked Phalarope was a big surprise for this year’s fall count.

New for a fall count were Common Merganser, Red-necked Phalarope and Eastern Whip-poor-will, with one individual of each of these species being found.  The Red-necked Phalarope represented only the seventh record for  the five-county area of northeast Tennessee.   This bird, found at Paddlecreek Pond in Sullivan County, was found thanks to a timely report from participants on a Bristol Bird Club field trips.
 New high counts were tallied for Osprey (22) and Eastern Phoebe (76). Other notable sightings included: Bald Eagle, American Woodcock, Caspian Tern, Northern Saw-whet Owl – 2   (which has been found eight of the last 10 years), Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Philadelphia Vireo, Common Raven, Marsh Wren, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Summer Tanager and Bobolink.
I counted in Elizabethton and on Holston Mountain with Gary Wallace and Brookie and Jean Potter. During the morning hours, while birding with Jean Potter along the Watauga River, we ran into some other birders – Nick Lorch, Bambi Fincher and Sherry Quillen – and invited them to spend some time birding with us.
Later, Jean and I met Gary and Brookie for lunch at the Watauga Lake Overlook. Afterwards, we spent most of the afternoon on Holston Mountain. Finding birds during some of the hottest hours of the day on Holston Mountain proved a challenge. When birds got too scarce, we enjoyed looking at fall wildflowers, such as Bottled Gentian.
Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service The European Starling ranked as the most common species on the count.

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The European Starling ranked as the most common species on the count.

Some birds were found in large numbers, including European Starling, the most common bird on the count with 2,109 individuals tallied. Other common birds included Canada Goose (868), Chimney Swift (654), American Robin (554), American Crow (530),  Tree Swallow (428), Blue Jay (353) and American Goldfinch (293).
The count found a total of 128 species. The tally follows:
Canada Goose, 868; Wood Duck, 36; Mallard, 290; Blue-winged Teal, 12; and Common Merganser, 1.
Wild Turkey, 97; Pied-billed Grebe, 4; Double-crested Cormorant, 15; Great Blue Heron, 41; Great Egret, 1; Green Heron, 4; Black Vulture, 40; and Turkey Vulture, 148.
Osprey, 22; Bald Eagle, 4; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 4; Cooper’s Hawk, 9; Red-tailed Hawk, 21; American Kestrel, 6; Merlin, 2; and Peregrine Falcon, 1.
Killdeer, 63; Spotted Sandpiper, 1; Solitary Sandpiper, 1; Red-necked Phalarope, 1; American Woodcock, 1; and Caspian Tern, 6.
Rock Pigeon, 233; Eurasian Collared-Dove, 1; Mourning Dove, 255; Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 1; Eastern Screech-Owl, 26; Great Horned Owl, 10; Barred Owl, 6; and Northern Saw-whet Owl, 2.
Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Nothern Saw-whet Owl appeared on this year's count, as the species has done for eight of the past 10 years.

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Nothern Saw-whet Owl appeared on this year’s count, as the species has done for eight of the past 10 years.

Common Nighthawk, 3; Eastern Whip-poor-will, 1; Chimney Swift, 654; Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 21; and Belted Kingfisher, 32.
Red-headed Woodpecker, 2; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 65; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 9; Downy Woodpecker, 43; Hairy Woodpecker, 9; Northern Flicker, 56; and Pileated Woodpecker, 27.
Eastern Wood-Pewee, 17; Acadian Flycatcher, 1; Eastern Phoebe, 76; Great Crested Flycatcher, 2; and unidentified Empidonax species, 2.
White-eyed Vireo, 5; Yellow-throated Vireo, 5; Blue-headed Vireo, 25; Philadelphia Vireo, 4; Red-eyed Vireo, 6; Blue Jay, 353; American Crow, 530; and Common Raven, 28.
Tree Swallow, 428; Carolina Chickadee, 162; Tufted Titmouse, 89; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 2; and White-breasted Nuthatch, 46.
Carolina Wren, 191; House Wren, 10; Winter Wren, 2; Marsh Wren, 3; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 1; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 7; and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 2.
Eastern Bluebird, 122; Veery, 2; Gray-cheeked Thrush, 6; Swainson’s Thrush, 29; Hermit Thrush, 2; Wood Thrush, 11; and American Robin, 554.
Gray Catbird, 59; Northern Mockingbird, 67; Brown Thrasher, 18; European Starling, 2,109; and Cedar Waxwing, 157.

 

Yellow-throatedWarbler

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                    The Yellow-throated Warbler was one of 24 warbler species that made this year’s fall count.

Ovenbird, 5; Worm-eating Warbler, 1; Northern Waterthrush, 1; Black-and-white Warbler, 8; Tennessee Warbler, 47; Orange-crowned Warbler, 1; Common Yellowthroat, 25; Hooded Warbler, 9; American Redstart, 21; Cape May Warbler, 10; Northern Parula, 4; Magnolia Warbler, 29; Bay-breasted Warbler, 4; Blackburnian Warbler, 2; Chestnut-sided Warbler, 3; Black-throated Blue Warbler, 10; Palm Warbler, 56; Pine Warbler, 6; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1; Yellow-throated Warbler, 2; Prairie Warbler, 2; Black-throated Green Warbler, 10; and Canada Warbler, 1.

Eastern Towhee, 66; Chipping Sparrow, 19; Field Sparrow, 32; Savannah Sparrow, 5; Song Sparrow, 197; Lincoln’s Sparrow, 3; Swamp Sparrow, 2; and Dark-eyed Junco, 57.

Summer Tanager, 1; Scarlet Tanager, 6; Northern Cardinal, 165; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 67; and Indigo Bunting, 14.
Bobolink, 1; Red-winged Blackbird, 9; Eastern Meadowlark, 22; Common Grackle, 4; Brown-headed Cowbird, 2; House Finch, 68; American Goldfinch, 293; and House Sparrow, 54.
••••••
I have been making a habit of strolling the linear trail in Erwin, especially the section of the trail located near McDonald’s. It’s always a good place to find birds such as Great Blue Herons and Belted Kingfishers. During migration, it has also been a good place to find birds such as Northern Waterthrush and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
During the month of October, readers are also invited to meet me every Saturday at 8 a.m. in the parking lot at the visitors center at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton for a bird walk along the park’s trails. The adjacent Watauga River also provides an opportunity to look for waterfowl and other birds affiliated with water.

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Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                  Some of the 104 Blue-winged Teal found Oct. 4 during the first of this year’s October Bird Walks at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.

The first of the walks, held on Oct. 4, was attended by nine participants. A total of 33 species was tallied during the two-hour walk along the park’s trails.
Some highlights included a raft of 104 Blue-winged Teal on the Watauga River. Other waterfowl included Pied-billed Grebes, Wood Ducks and Mallards.
Two warblers — Common Yellowthroat and Magnolia Warbler — were also observed, as well as Swainson’s Thrush, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting.
Three more walks are scheduled for Oct. 11, Oct. 18 and Oct. 25.
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Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                                                                                                                         Attend one of this year’s Saturday Bird Walks at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton to look for migrating birds, as well as year-round residents like this female Northern Cardinal.