15-21 December 2002


All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Only five Common Grackles were seen on the 2002 York/Rock Hill Christmas Bird Count, compared to a high of 3,901 in 2000 and
an 11-year average of 998.

Sponsored locally by Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, the annual York/Rock Hill Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began early on 21 December 2002--the first day of winter--with a magnificent full moon setting against a crystal-clear sky. For this 12th year of the count, six intrepid birders met before dawn in Rock Hill before scattering across central York County. Veteran participants Susan Holland (6th year) and Faye Metzl and Bob Olson (8 years each) joined Count compiler Bill Hilton Jr. (12 years) and newcomers Lloyd Moon and Bill Powell to inventory all the birds they could find in a 15-mile diameter circle with its center near Northwestern High School. Joe DePriest, reporter for The Charlotte Observer, accompanied one of the field parties for the morning hours.

In all the survey teams counted 2,334 individual birds--well below the 12-year average of 6,843--and 70 different species, compared to an average of 65. The 12th annual count turned out to be the third best in species totals; the highest was 2000 with 80 species. (Approximately 125 species of birds might reasonably be expected in York County in winter.) The individual total was the second lowest over the 12-year span of the count, due largely to the absence of any large flocks of blackbirds or American Robins. (Last year's total of 1,915 individual birds was the lowest ever.)

The 2002 count produced no new species, but record highs were tallied for seven species: Ring-necked Duck (19), Southern Bald Eagle (2, one adult and one immature), Gadwall (3), and Osprey (3), plus--thanks in part to a newly discovered power-line right-of-way--three sparrow species: Chipping (103), Field (58), and Song (47). Two species--Horned Grebe (4) and Eastern Phoebe (10)--tied records for total individuals seen. This is only the second year the count has produced Ospreys, and Southern Bald Eagles were seen for just the fourth time. One of this year's surprises was an immature Red-headed Woodpecker eating acorns near the extreme eastern edge of the count circle in a York subdivision; this species is seldom seen except at the Winthrop University farm in Rock Hill.

We continue to lament the demise of our local Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures, which used to be two of the most commonly reported species on the York/Rock Hill CBC. A visit to the York County landfill was sure to produce several hundred of these scavengers, but when the county moved to a containerized garbage transport system in the mid-1990s, the bottom fell out of the resident vulture population. Even garbage-picking Ring-billed Gulls were few and far between at the landfill in 2002; only 30 were seen--compared to about 3,000 in the count's first year (1991).

Also missing in 2002 were any vagrant hummers; two Rufous Hummingbirds spent the entire winter of 2001-2002 within the count circle and one was tallied for last year's CBC. We are still amazed that over the York/Rock Hill count's 12-year history we have never spotted a Northern Bobwhite, and that we almost never hear or see any owl species.

If you're interested in helping survey and learn about Piedmont birds, our count is always the Saturday before Christmas (unless that day is Christmas Eve), so get out next year's calendar and pencil it in for 20 December 2003. Maybe you'll be the person that spots that elusive bobwhite at Hilton Pond Center or hears a Great Horned Owl elsewhere within the territory that makes up the York/Rock Hill Christmas Bird Count.

Blackbird, Brewer's .
Blackbird, Red-winged 3
Blackbird, Rusty .
Blackbird sp. .
Bluebird, Eastern 132
Bobwhite, Northern .
Bufflehead 7
Bunting, Snow .
Buteo sp. .
Canvasback .
Cardinal, Northern 31
Catbird, Gray .
Chickadee, Carolina 33
Coot, American 22
Cormorant, Double-crested 6
Cowbird, Brown-headed .
Creeper, Brown 2
Crow, American 86
Crow, Fish .
Dove, Mourning 125
Dove, Rock 61
Duck, American Black 2
Duck, Ring-necked 19 *
Duck, Ruddy 14
Duck, Wood 2
Dunlin .
Eagle, S. Bald 2 *
Egret, Great .
Falcon, Peregrine .
Finch, House 12
Finch, Purple .
Flicker, Northern 6
Gadwall 3 *
Gnatcatcher, Blue Gray .
Goldeneye, Common .
Goldfinch, American 9
Goose, Canada 138
Goose, Snow .
Grackle, Common 5
Grebe, Horned 4 **
Grebe, Pied-billed 13
Grosbeak, Evening .
Gull, Bonaparte's 238
Gull, Herring .
Gull, Laughing .
Gull, Ring-billed 279
Harrier, Northern .
Hawk, Cooper's 1
Hawk, Red-shouldered 2
Hawk, Red-tailed 11
Hawk, Sharp-shinned 1
Heron, Great Blue 35
Heron, Green .
Hummingbird, Rufous .
Jay, Blue 28
Junco, Dark-eyed 120
Kestrel, American 2
Killdeer 4
Kingfisher, Belted 4
Kinglet, Golden-crowned 7
Kinglet, Ruby-crowned 10
Lark, Prairie Horned .
Loon, Common 2
Mallard 45
Meadowlark, Eastern 41
Merganser, Common .
Merganser, Hooded .
Merganser, Red-breasted .
Merlin .
Mockingbird, Northern 35
Nuthatch, Brown-headed 2
Nuthatch, Red-breasted .
Nuthatch, White-breasted .
Oriole, Northern .
Osprey 3 *
Owl, Barred .
Owl, E. Screech .
Owl, Great Horned .
Owl, Northern Saw-whet .
Phoebe, Eastern 10 **
Pintail, Northern .
Pipit, Water 75
Redhead .
Robin, American 30
Sapsucker, Yellow-bellied 6
Scaup, Greater .
Scaup, Lesser 1
Shoveler, Northern .
Shrike, Loggerhead .
Siskin, Pine .
Snipe, Common .
Sparrow sp. .
Sparrow, Chipping 103 *
Sparrow, Field 58 *
Sparrow, Fox .
Sparrow, House 8
Sparrow, Lincoln's .
Sparrow, Savannah .
Sparrow, Song 47 *
Sparrow, Swamp 7
Sparrow, Vesper .
Sparrow, White-crowned .
Sparrow, White-throated 63
Starling, European 201
Teal, Green-winged .
Teal, Blue-winged .
Tern, Forster's .
Thrasher, Brown 4
Thrush, Hermit 3
Titmouse, Tufted 15
Towhee, Eastern 17
Turkey, Wild .
Vireo, Blue-headed (Solitary) .
Vulture, Black 5
Vulture, Turkey 13
Warbler, Palm (Yellow) .
Warbler, Pine 10
Warbler, Yellow-rumped 15
Waxwing, Cedar 5
Wigeon, American .
Woodcock, American .
Woodpecker, Downy 6
Woodpecker, Hairy .
Woodpecker, Pileated .
Woodpecker, Red-bellied 10
Woodpecker, Red-headed 4
Wren, Carolina 10
Wren, Winter 1
Yellowthroat, Common .

Total individuals


Total species

* = New record high
** = Ties record high

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Read Joe DePriest's article about the York/Rock Hill CBC
The Charlotte Observer

Main Page for York/Rock Hill Christmas Bird Count

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15-21 December 2002

Dark-eyed Junco--8
American Goldfinch--6
House Finch--16
White-throated Sparrow--14
Blue Jay--1

(with original banding dates)
White-throated Sparrow (1)
12/19/00--3rd year unknown
House Finch (4)
07/29/00--3rd year female
08/18/00--after 3rd year male
02/24/01--after 2nd year male
07/25/01--2nd year male
Eastern Towhee (1)
12/09/01--2nd year male

--A heavy half-inch of rain on 19 Nov created enough run-off to further relieve drought-depleted Hilton Pond. It is now only about 18" from capacity, after being down almost four feet at late summer.

Rufous Hummingbird banded on 18 Dec at Lexington SC
Rufous Hummingbird banded on 20 Dec at Smyrna SC

On 16 November, a Dark-eyed Junco
became the 42,000th bird banded
at the
Center since 1982.

5 species
45 individuals

78 species
2,320 individuals

(since 28 June 1982)
123 species
42,039 individuals

All photos & text © Hilton Pond Center

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this Web site--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.