Tag Archives: Fall Bird Count

Club holds 51st annual Fall Bird Count

Photo by NatureLady/Pixabay.com • 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.

The 51st  consecutive Elizabethton Fall Count was held on 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.

Photo by U.S. FWS   Many birds, such as Northern bobwhites, have seen alarming population crashes in the last half century.

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 of species. These small flycatchers are so similar in appearance that their song is usually needed to confirm identification. In fall migration, however, these flycatcher 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 1,757b individuals counted. Other common birds for the count included Canada goose (1,220), Rock Pigeon (629) and Chimney Swift (478).

Photo by Jean Potter • The rock pigeon is one of the most successful members of the bird family Columbidae, which is comprised of some 310 species of doves and pigeons. One of the most famous representatives of the family is the dodo, an extinct relative of such common birds as the mourning dove and rock pigeon.

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.

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.

Fall bird count celebrates 50 consecutive years, finds 118 species

Photo by Bryan Stevens  • Chipping sparrows, such as this individual, showed up for the Fall Bird Count in good numbers.

The 50th consecutive Elizabethton Fall Bird Count was held on Saturday, Oct. 5, with 29 observers in eight parties. Participants tallied 118 species, which is below the recent 30-year average of 125 species. Windy conditions throughout the day and dense fog on the higher mountain tops contributed to the reduced variety. The all-time high on this count was 137 species in 1993.

The yearly survey is not limited to Carter County and Elizabethton. The long-running count includes parts of the adjacent counties of Unicoi, as well as Johnson Sullivan and Washington.

The total follows:

Canada Goose, 635; Wood Duck, 97; Mallard,173; Blue-winged Teal, 30; and Green-winged Teal, 3;

Ruffed Grouse, 3; Wild Turkey, 56; Common Loon, 1; Pied-billed Grebe, 7; Double-crested Cormorant, 10; and Great Blue Heron, 35.

Black Vulture, 78; Turkey Vulture, 139; Osprey, 7; Northern Harrier, 3; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 2; Cooper’s Hawk, 9; Bald Eagle, 12; Red-shouldered Hawk, 5; Broad-winged Hawk, 2; and Red-tailed Hawk, 13.

Killdeer, 35; Spotted Sandpiper, 1; Lesser Yellowlegs, 1; Ring-billed Gull, 1; Rock Pigeon, 402; Eurasian Collared-Dove, 1; Mourning Dove, 153; and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 1.

Eastern Screech-Owl, 10; Great Horned Owl, 5; Barred Owl, 2; Chimney Swift, 244; Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 7; and Belted Kingfisher, 24.

Photo by Bryan Stevens • Eastern Screech-owls, such as this individual, were the most numerous of the owls found on this year’s Fall Bird Count.

Red-headed Woodpecker, 2; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 50; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 7; Downy Woodpecker, 36; Hairy Woodpecker, 6; Northern Flicker, 41; and Pileated Woodpecker, 17.

American Kestrel, 16; Merlin, 2; Peregrine Falcon, 1; Eastern Wood-Pewee, 12; Least Flycatcher; 1; and Eastern Phoebe, 82.

Yellow-throated Vireo, 1; Blue-headed Vireo, 18; Philadelphia Vireo, 1; Red-eyed Vireo, 7; Blue Jay, 347; American Crow, 442; and Common Raven, 10.

Tree Swallow, 118; Carolina Chickadee,141; Tufted Titmouse, 82; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 6; White-breasted Nuthatch, 28; Brown Creeper; 1; Winter Wren, 2; Marsh Wren, 1; and Carolina Wren, 114.

Golden-crowned Kinglet, 5; Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1; Eastern Bluebird, 114; Veery, 1; Gray-cheeked Thrush, 6; Swainson’s Thrush, 37; Wood Thrush,15; American Robin, 212; Gray Catbird, 23; Brown Thrasher, 9; Northern Mockingbird, 56; Eurasian Starling, 555; and Cedar Waxwing, 70.

Ovenbird, 3; Northern Waterthrush, 3; Black-and-white Warbler, 4; Tennessee Warbler, 51; Kentucky Warbler, 1; Common Yellowthroat, 6; Hooded Warbler, 3; American Redstart, 7; Cape May Warbler, 1; Northern Parula, 4; Magnolia Warbler 6; Bay-breasted Warbler, 36; Blackburnian Warbler, 4; Chestnut-sided Warbler, 4; Blackpoll Warbler, 4; Black-throated Blue Warbler, 8; Palm Warbler, 56; Pine Warbler, 3; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 4; Yellow-throated Warbler, 2; and Black-throated Green Warbler, 7.

Photo by Bryan Stevens • Male American redstarts are unmistakable warblers in their orange, black and white plumage.

Eastern Towhee, 53; Chipping Sparrow, 46; Field Sparrow, 11; Savannah Sparrow, 2; Song Sparrow, 126; Swamp Sparrow, 4; and Dark-eyed Junco, 73.

Scarlet Tanager, 5; Northern Cardinal, 120; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 67; Blue Grosbeak, 1; and Indigo Bunting, 27.

Red-winged Blackbird, 194; Eastern Meadowlark, 14; Common Grackle, 1; Brown-headed Cowbird, 11; House Finch, 36; Pine Siskin, 8; American Goldfinch, 99; House Sparrow, 19.

Long-time count compiler Rick Knight spotlighted some notable misses, including Green Heron, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush, Prairie Warbler, Lincoln’s Sparrow and Red Crossbill.

“The crossbills were missed because Roan Mountain was completely socked in with fog all day,” Knight explained. He added that only a few shorebirds were found partly due to shortage of habitat as well as the drought in the region at the time of the count.

Photo by Bryan Stevens • Wild turkeys often form flocks in autumn and early winter.

Fall Bird Count finds 127 species


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Raptors, like this Red-tailed Hawk, proved plentiful on count day. Broad-winged Hawk, a relative of the Red-tailed Hawk, even set a new record for most individuals found.

The 49th consecutive Elizabethton Fall Count was held Saturday, Sept. 29, with 50 observers in 13 parties covering parts of five adjacent counties.

According to count compiler Rick Knight, a total of 127 species were tallied (plus Empidonax species), slightly higher than the average of the last 30 years, which was 125. The all-time high was 137 species in 1993.

Two very rare species were found: Purple Gallinule at Meadowview Golf Course in Kingsport and Black-legged Kittiwake on South Holston Lake. The kittiwake had been found Sept. 27 and lingered until count day.

Shorebird habitat was scarce due to high water levels at most sites, thus only one species was found (other than Killdeer).Broad-winged Hawks were numerous, part of a notable late flight likely due to unfavorable weather conditions preceeding the count.
Warblers were generally in low numbers, although 23 species were seen. No migrant sparrows had arrived yet. Blackbirds, too, were scarce. Some regular species were tallied in record high numbers, likely due to the above average number of field parties.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Wild Turkeys and Ruffed Grouse were found on this year’s count, but participants failed to locate any Northern Bobwhites.

The list of species follows:

Canada Goose, 781; Wood Duck, 79; Mallard, 345; Blue-winged Teal, 110;  Com. Merganser, 2;  Ruffed Grouse, 2; and Wild Turkey, 56.

Pied-billed Grebe 32; Double-crested Cormorant, 78; Great Blue Heron, 49; Great Egret, 2; Green Heron, 2; and Black-crowned Night-Heron, 5.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Several species of herons and egrets were located, including Black-crowned Night Heron.

Black Vulture 71; Turkey Vulture 203; and Osprey, 27. This represented a new record for the number of Osprey found on this count.

Bald Eagle 8; Northern Harrier, 1; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 3; Cooper’s Hawk, 9; Red-shouldered Hawk, 6; Broad-winged Hawk, 321; (most ever on this count) and Red-tailed Hawk, 19.

Virginia Rail 1; Purple Gallinule, 1; Killdeer, 43; Spotted Sandpiper, 1; Black-legged Kittiwake, 1; Caspian Tern, 1; and Common Tern, 2.


Rock Pigeon, 597; Eurasian Collared-Dove, 2; Mourning Dove, 330; Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 4; E. Screech-Owl, 24; Great Horned Owl, 10; Barred Owl, 5; Northern Saw-whet Owl, 1; and Common Nighthawk, 1.

Chimney Swift, 481; Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 31; Belted Kingfisher, 32; Red-headed Woodpecker, 5; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 92; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 5; Downy Woodpecker, 59; Hairy Woodpecker, 12; Northern Flicker, 67; Pileated Woodpecker, 54; American Kestrel, 13; and Merlin, 2. The figures for Red-bellied and Pileated Woodpeckers mark new high counts for these two species.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • A record number of Red-bellied Woodpeckers were found on this year’s Fall Bird Count.

Eastern Wood-Pewee 15; Empidonax species, 2; Eastern Phoebe, 79; Eastern Kingbird, 9; White-eyed Vireo, 1; Yellow-throated Vireo, 2; Blue-headed Vireo, 21; Philadelphia Vireo, 3; Red-eyed Vireo, 4; Blue Jay, 646; American Crow, 364; and Common Raven, 1.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow, 3; Tree Swallow, 465; Barn Swallow, 1; and Cliff Swallow, 3.

Carolina Chickadee, 177; Tufted Titmouse, 133; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 4; White-breasted Nuthatch, 71; Brown Creeper, 1; House Wren, 4; Winter Wren, 1; and Carolina Wren, 218. Both Tufted Titmouse and White-breasted Nuthatch were found in record numbers, as was the Carolina Wren, too

Golden-crowned Kinglet, 8, Eastern Bluebird, 187;  Gray-cheeked, Thrush 12; Swainson’s Thrush, 46;  Wood Thrush, 9; American Robin, 591; Gray Catbird, 64; Brown Thrasher, 23; and Northern Mockingbird, 111; European Starling 1,226;  and Cedar Waxwing, 294. The number of Gray Catbirds set a new record for the species.

Worm-eating Warbler 1; Northern Waterthrush, 1; Black-and-white Warbler, 7; Prothonotary Warbler, 1; Tennessee Warbler, 42; Orange-crowned Warbler, 2; Kentucky Warbler, 2; Common Yellowthroat, 9; Hooded Warbler, 7; American Redstart, 16; Cape May Warbler, 6; Northern Parula, 8; Magnolia Warbler, 18; Bay-breasted Warbler, 15; Blackburnian Warbler, 8; Yellow Warbler, 1; Chestnut-sided Warbler, 1; Black-throated Blue Warbler, 4; Palm Warbler, 63; Pine Warbler, 11; Yellow-throated Warbler, 1; Prairie Warbler, 1; and Black-throated Green Warbler, 7.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Participants found a total of 23 different species of warblers, including American Redstarts.

Eastern Towhee, 66; Chipping Sparrow, 94; Field Sparrow, 16; Song Sparrow, 97; and Dark-eyed Junco, 42.

Summer Tanager 2; Scarlet Tanager, 11;  N. Cardinal, 149; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 125; and Indigo Bunting, 14.

Bobolink, 2; Red-winged Blackbird, 132; Eastern Meadowlark, 7; Common Grackle, 8; Brown-headed Cowbird, 5; House Finch, 41; Pine Siskin, 11; American Goldfinch, 220; and House Sparrow, 69.

Goldfinch 5

Photo by Bryan Stevens • American Goldfinches were among the smaller songbirds found during the annual Fall Bird Count.

Common nighthawk flocks form part of fall migration spectacle


Photo by Jean Potter • A common nighthawk rests on a metal railing.

With September advancing on the calendar, I have been keeping an eye on the skies. For the most part, I focus on the upper branches of trees and feeders during the migration season, but I don’t forget the need to look skyward from time to time.

The reason? Well, that’s the best way to detect soaring raptors or flocks of migrating common nighthawks. The autumn sky is also a popular flyway for other birds, including chimney swifts and swallows.

So, what is a common nighthawk? First, this bird, despite what is implied by its name, is not a hawk. It’s also not strictly nocturnal. Particularly in the fall, nighthawks are active during daylight hours when engaged in catching winged insects. Outside of fall migration, these birds can often be observed over large parking lots or well-lit streets, snatching up insects swarming around the light poles.

The common nighthawk is one of three members of the nightjar family found in the region during the summer months. The other two nightjars are the whip-poor-will and chuck-will’s-widow, birds that produce their namesake vocalizations in the nocturnal hours. Both of these species migrate, but they don’t take the dramatic approach employed by nighthawks. Each fall, common nighthawks form large flocks, ranging in size from dozens to hundreds or even thousands of individuals, as they migrate south for the winter.


Early American naturalist and artist painted this dynamic scene of common nighthawks.

The whip-poor-will, after the common nighthawk, is the second most widespread member of its family to spend its breeding season in North America. The whip-poor-will ranges from southern Canada to the Gulf states. This bird also occurs in Arizona, New Mexico and southwestern Texas. The whip-poor-will favors habitat consisting of deciduous woodlands and the edges of forests.

All members of the nightjar family feed exclusively on insects that are caught on the wing. In this respect, the nightjars can be considered the nocturnal counterparts of the swallows. The nightjars have comparatively large, gaping mouths they use to scoop up flying insects. They also have large eyes, an adaptation to their nocturnal lifestyle.

Whip-poor-will numbers have been declining in the past few decades. These nocturnal birds frequent woodland edges, but they seem to be rather particular about such habitats. A forest that is too mature seems to hold little interest for them. Disturbed habitats, such as those created by logging, are acceptable to the birds once secondary growth begins. As this new growth matures, however, the whip-poor-will apparently abandons such territory. Because of these requirements, whip-poor-wills can be somewhat localized in their distribution and sometimes difficult to locate.


Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service • A common nighthawk finds a perch for a brief rest.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite summer activities was sitting on the front porch of my grandparents’ home and listening to the whip-poor-wills call after dark. I remember how the plaintive call would be repeated for long intervals before a passing automobile’s headlights might frighten the bird into silence. Then, after a brief pause, the “whip-poor-will” calls would, tentatively at first, begin again and continue throughout the night.

Today, I’m living in my grandparents’ old home, and the whip-poor-wills no longer call. I heard a single individual that called for a single evening back in May of 1997, but that was apparently a migrating bird that did not remain in the surrounding woodlands. The only member of the nightjar family that I dependably encounter at home these days is the common nighthawk, and then only during that narrow window of late summer and early autumn.

Unlike whips and chucks, the common nighthawk isn’t active only after dark, which makes it much easier to observe these birds. They look somewhat like swifts and swallows but are much larger. They are brownish-gray birds with pointed wings and forked tails. They are easily identified by distinctive white patches on the underside of their wings.

The nightjar, or Caprimulgidae, family of birds is also sometimes known as “goatsuckers.” There are almost 80 species of nightjars in the world. Less than 10 occur in North America. The common nighthawk, whip-poor-will and the chuck-will’s widow are neotropical migrants. While they breed in a wide range of territory in North America, they spend their winters in Central and South America. Like all nightjars, nighthawks feed almost exclusively on insects, which they catch on the wing.

Many of the common nighthawk’s relatives have been given descriptive names, such as long-trained nightjar, collared nightjar, spot-tailed nightjar, red-necked nightjar, golden nightjar, fiery-necked nightjar, swamp nightjar, pennant-winged nightjar, lyre-tailed nightjar, little nightjar, sickle-winged nightjar, rufous-bellied nighthawk, short-tailed nighthawk, sand-coloured nighthawk and least nighthawk.

So, keep looking skyward. The next flock of migrating common nighthawks may fly over your home. These flocks are usually on the move throughout September although they begin to appear as early as late August. They can also appear almost magically, as if out of thin air. First, observers may see one of two birds, then several, followed quickly by dozens or sometimes hundreds as they wheel and cavort in the skies overhead with impressive grace and agility. I’ve seen flocks that would easily number more than 500 birds in locations throughout the region, although flocks often number only a couple of dozen birds. The two flocks I’ve observed so far this migration season numbered about thirty and fifty birds, respectively.


Photo by Bryan Stevens • Rising clouds provide a backdrop for a flock of migrating nighthawks.



Fall Bird Count finds above-average total of 129 species

Geese-Flock 2

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                                                   A flock of Canada Geese in a field near the Watauga River in Elizabethton on the day of the Fall Bird Count.

The 46th annual Elizabethton Fall Count was held on Saturday, Sept. 26.

A total of 37 observers in nine parties covered Carter County and parts of adjacent Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties in this yearly count conducted by the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society, or the Elizabethton Bird Club. This year’s count included new territory around Kingsport that has not traditionally been a part of this annual fall survey.

A total of 129 species were found, which is slightly above the average of 125 over the last 30 years. The all-time high of 137 species was achieved in 1993.
The most numerous bird on the count was the European Starling (1,347) followed closely by Canada Goose (1,182) and American Crow (896).



Photo by Bryan Stevens                              Mourning Doves were one of the more abundant birds on this year’s Fall Bird Count.

Other numerous birds included Mourning Dove (529), Chimney Swift (490), Blue Jay (432) and Rock Pigeon (375).

Of course, some birds were represented by only one individual, such as Northern Harrier, Great Egret, American Wigeon, Ruffed Grouse, Peregrine Falcon, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Worm-eating Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Nashville Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat.


Photo by Bryan Stevens                                         A flock of Wild Turkeys near the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.

The total follows:
Canada Goose, 1,182; Wood Duck, 90; American Wigeon, 1; Mallard, 254; Blue-winged Teal, 13; Ruffed Grouse, 1; Wild Turkey, 161; Pied-billed Grebe, 9; and Double-crested Cormorant, 31.

Great Blue Heron, 39; Great Egret, 1; Green Heron, 7; Black-crowned Night-heron, 4; Black Vulture, 172; and Turkey Vulture, 189.
Osprey, 19; Northern Harrier, 1; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 5; Cooper’s Hawk, 10; Bald Eagle, 8; Red-shouldered Hawk, 3; and Red-tailed Hawk, 16.


Photo by Bryan Stevens A curious Gray Catbird peeks from dense cover. Attendees at the fall rally can look for catbirds and other species at any of the offered bird hikes.

Photo by Bryan Stevens                                        A curious Gray Catbird peeks from dense cover.

Sora, 4; American Coot, 2; Killdeer, 87; Spotted Sandpiper, 3; Solitary Sandpiper, 5; Willet, 1; Sanderling, 2; Least Sandpiper, 1; and American Woodcock, 1.

Ring-billed Gull, 4; Forster’s Tern, 1; Rock Pigeon, 375; Eurasian Collared-Dove, 5; Mourning Dove, 529; and Black-billed Cuckoo, 1.

Eastern Screech-owl, 27; Great Horned Owl, 3; Barred Owl, 1; Northern Saw-whet Owl, 1; Chimney Swift, 490; Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 36; and Belted Kingfisher, 33.

Red-headed Woodpecker, 1; Red-bellied Woodpecker, 73; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 53; Hairy Woodpecker, 7; Northern Flicker, 54; and Pileated Woodpecker, 28.


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.

American Kestrel, 24; Merlin, 2; Peregrine Falcon, 1; Olive-sided Flycatcher, 1; Eastern Wood-Pewee, 14; Acadian Flycatcher, 2; Eastern Phoebe, 71; and Eastern Kingbird, 1.

White-eyed Vireo, 3; Yellow-throated Vireo, 1; Blue-headed Vireo, 6; Red-eyed Vireo, 4; Blue Jay, 432; American Crow, 896; and Common Raven, 8.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow, 1; Tree Swallow, 231; Cliff Swallow, 2; Carolina Chickadee, 128; Tufted Titmouse, 111; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 1; and White-breasted Nuthatch, 43.

House Wren, 6; Marsh Wren, 1; Carolina Wren, 152; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 2; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 2; and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 2.



Photo by Bryan Stevens                                A total of 21 species of warblers, such as this Northern Waterthrush, were counted during the Fall Bird Count.

Eastern Bluebird, 230; Veery, 1; Gray-cheeked Thrush, 1; Swainson’s Thrush, 23; Wood Thrush, 12; American Robin, 312; Gray Catbird, 60; Brown Thrasher, 19; Northern Mockingbird, 76; European Starling, 1,347; and Cedar Waxwing, 132.

Ovenbird, 2; Worm-eating Warbler, 1; Northern Waterthrush, 1; Black-and-white Warbler, 6; Tennessee Warbler, 12; Nashville Warbler, 1; Common Yellowthroat, 25; Hooded Warbler, 4; American Redstart, 51; Cape May Warbler, 8; Northern Parula, 2; Magnolia Warbler, 24; Bay-breasted Warbler, 8; Blackburnian Warbler, 7; Chestnut-sided Warbler, 7; Black-throated Blue Warbler, 2; Palm Warbler, 54; Pine Warbler, 2; Yellow-throated Warbler, 1; Black-throated Green Warbler, 4; and Yellow-breasted Chat, 1.



Photo by Bryan Stevens                                  Scarlet Tanagers were still present in good numbers for the Fall Bird Count on Sept. 26.

Eastern Towhee, 59; Chipping Sparrow, 37; Field Sparrow, 14; Song Sparrow, 99; Dark-eyed Junco, 31; Scarlet Tanager, 16; Northern Cardinal, 188; Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 28; Blue Grosbeak, 1; and Indigo Bunting.


Red-winged Blackbird, 60; Eastern Meadowlark, 41; Common Grackle, 67; Brown-headed Cowbird, 15; Baltimore Oriole, 3; House Finch, 55; American Goldfinch, 188; and House Sparrow, 56.

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. 


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.



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.


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.

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.