Sunday, January 06, 2008

CBCing #2

Savannah, Tennessee, this time. As with Buffalo River, my second year on the count and covering nearly the same turf as last time, a mixture of the cultivated bottoms and cypress sloughs of the Tennessee River bottoms and the adjacent bluffs and uplands of the western edge of the Highland Rim. Last year we raked in a phenomenal total of 111 species, which was a close second to Reelfoot Lake (116) for highest species total in the state. No such luck this year. As I have been noticing all over this part of Tennessee since autumn, numbers and diversity of land birds are down. This year we came in at 105 species. Just in my area, my total was 62 species, down from 65 last year. A big factor was the dry spring, which allowed the farmers in the Tennessee River bottoms to plow their fields from edge to edge. Hence, there were no fallow spots in sloughs, swales, etc.; hence there were no LeConte's Sparrows, Marsh Wrens, Common Yellowthroats, etc. There's also a pronounced depression in numbers of most woodpeckers, Blue Jays (complete failure of acorn crop from last spring's freeze), and many woodland and brushland passerines. Sparrows (other than LeConte's) seem to be doing okay; perhaps the late summer and autumn rains were enough to produce an acceptable crop of composite and grass seeds.

Still, as always, there were some nice things. This itty bitty teeny weeny male Merlin greeted me at sunrise and allowed me to walk right underneath him, just 10 or 15m over my head, before he flew (usual lousy pic snapped with inexpensive digital cam held to eyepiece of binocs):

I swear he was the smallest Merlin I can recall ever having seen; I realize absolute sizes are rough to judge in the field but he seemed smaller even than the average male Kestrel. Some of the other goodies for the day included a squadron of 16 Sandhill Cranes coming in for a landing, and an unexpected Least Sandpiper in a mud puddle with two Killdeer (third record for the Count). Plus I finally got my Lapland Longspur for Tennessee; 43 of them, in fact. All told I had three species not found by any other party: the cranes, Least Sandpiper, and astonishingly my lone Pine Warbler. I did have 11 of the 12 White-crowned Sparrows (luck) and 10 of the 11 Winter Wrens (good habitat and careful listening). And as a special treat, several of the 7 Fox Sparrows I found were singing in the morning.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter