Here’s how the bird count discoveries broke down in the mountains.
• Highlands Plateau Audubon Society. Twelve birders split up into four teams for the Dec. 18 bird count. They counted 41 species, compared to 43 the previous year and counted 977 birds, down 99 from last year. Some highlights were a large flock of pine siskins, five species of woodpeckers, a hermit thrush, 25 hooded merganser and a ruby-crowned kinglet. Two teams enjoyed excellent views of golden-crowned kinglets, with males flashing their golden-edged, scarlet crowns.
• Franklin Bird Club. Despite more than 2 inches of rain that day, 29 birders turned out to count birds Jan. 3 in Franklin’s third year doing the Christmas Bird Count. The group identified 63 species, up from 60 last year, when 34 birders turned out. A total of 6,054 birds were spotted, up from 4,270 last year. Special sightings this year included two green-winged teals, two rusty blackbirds, four hooded mergansers and a snow goose.
• Carolina Field Birders. Though birders fell a bit short of the average count of 73 species, the 69 bird species the 18 counters found in an area including parts of Haywood and Jackson counties sported some rarities. The Field Birders are working with Audubon to confirm a sighting of a female scarlet tanager at the Maggie Valley Club and Resort — if accepted, it would be the first documented winter sighting of the species in Western North Carolina. Other notable sights included an American woodcock near Lake Logan, a black vulture and a passel of raptors: 11 red-tailed hawks, one red-shouldered hawk, four Cooper’s hawks, four American kestrels and a peregrine falcon.