- Established 1982 -


16-21 January 2022

Installment #763---Visitor #best free website hit counter

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The third week of January 2022 turned out to be quite eventful at Hilton Pond Center. Newberry College roommate Doug Dietz flew east from California to celebrate his 74th birthday and--as usual--to graciously help with a project that benefits the Center. Then the Carolina Piedmont got its first snow of the winter. Oh, and we also happened to catch an American Goldfinch that was a big milestone in our 41 years of bird banding research. Read on, if you will, for details.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Photo by Susan B. Hilton

Last year our ancient John Deere riding mower finally bit the dust after more than three decades of dependability. Having a working mower is essential to keeping our trails groomed and mist net lanes open, so we made the major purchase of a new Husqvarna mower in time for our spring banding season. We also decided a permanent shelter for it would be better than several generations of flimsy tarps we had used to cover the old mower. Before his visit east, Doug Dietz agreed a "lean-to" attached to the Center's existing shop building would be more than adequate to protect the new machine, so when he arrived we finalized a materials list and drove off to the local Lowe's store for a trailer full of lumber and hardware. Through lunchtime on 15 January we made pretty good progress (above), and by dark had five posts set and all the main rafters in place.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Alas, we might have known when a Sunny California guy like Doug Dietz came east he'd be welcomed by snow overnight on 15-16 January; in fact, we awoke to a couple of inches on the ground. The white stuff--our first of the winter season--was fun and looked nice out back (above) and under the roofless, partially finished lean-to (below), but it was wet and cold and stymied our work plan.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

With warmer weather in the forecast, on the 16th we personally opted for desk work and running a few traps baited with sunflower seeds while Doug huddled up with a good book in front of the woodstove. Although not deep, the snow cover really brought in the birds and by dusk we had our best banding day of the new year with 22 American Goldfinches (AMGO), four House Finches (HOFI), three Northern Cardinals, and a couple of Chipping Sparrows.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

As the sun came out on the 17th we elected to remain in reading/trapping mode until the snow melted a little, which turned out to be the right decision. Birds were again flocking to our backyard cornucopia of sunflower seeds and by lunchtime we'd captured another 15 AMGO, five HOFI, and a White-throated Sparrow--plus one other noteworthy American Goldfinch (above) that turned out to be the 75,000th bird banded at Hilton Pond Center since 1982!

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Although still in non-breeding winter plumage, a bright yellow "shoulder" on this black-winged individual (above) told us he was a "full adult" male--an after-second-bird bird that hatched in or before 2020. ("Young" AMGO males--i.e., hatch-year and second-year birds--have a black wing with a salt-and-pepper bend that is actually the wrist and not the shoulder. Females of any age also have salt-and-pepper wrists but paler wings) A total of 75,000 bandings certainly wasn't on our radar when we started avian research 41 years ago at the Center, so we tipped our caps to this milestone goldfinch after we photographed him for posterity and sent him on his way. Then we shut our bird traps and got to back to work on the lean-to for the shop.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Photo by Susan B. Hilton

The Hilton-Dietz duo spent the rest of the afternoon blocking the rafters on the new structure. Despite having to dodge water dripping off the shed roof as snow melted, we were even able to place and screw down all the lean-to's corrugated translucent roof panels (above). Thus, we completed our mid-winter project and moved in the garden tractor (below) just as darkness arrived.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Two days later on 20 January it was time for Doug Dietz to return home to California, so after studiously pondering our NEXT Hilton Pond construction project over breakfast (below) we drove to the Charlotte airport and--with hugs and sincere thanks for Doug's friendship and building skills--sent him on his way. Unlike that American Goldfinch that turned out to be #75,000, however, we did NOT put a band on Doug's leg. (Among other reasons, we're sure airport security would have had too many questions!) Bon voyage, Roomie; hope to see you again in June!

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Photo by Susan B. Hilton

POSTSCRIPT: Hilton Pond Center's purchase of the new Husqvarna lawn tractor in late 2021 was covered in full by a generous "Top Tier" donation from Lynn & Terral Jordan. A $1,000 gift from someone in 2022 would offset the entire cost of materials for the recently completed lean-to. (Donations in any amount to the non-profit Center are tax-deductible.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

(from our on-going series)

"Never trust a person too lazy to get up for sunrise
or too busy to watch the sunset."

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Sunset over Hilton Pond, 19 January 2022

After two weeks of either completely clear or completely overcast days, the image above shows the first hint of evening color we saw to the west during the new year--complete with quickly disappearing remnants of snow from a few days prior.

Photoshop image post-processing for this page employs
DeNoise AI, Sharpen AI, and other Topaz Lab tools

Don't forget to scroll down for lists of all birds banded and recaptured during the period.

"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written and photographed by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History

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Thanks to the following fine folks for recent gifts in support of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and/or Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project. Your tax-deductible contributions allow us, among other things, to continue writing, photographing, and sharing "This Week at Hilton Pond" with students, teachers, fellow scientists, and the general public. Please scroll below if you'd like to make a gift of your own.

We're pleased folks are thinking about the work of the Center and making donations. Those listed below made contributions received during the period. Please join them if you can in coming weeks.

Gifts can be made via PayPal (; credit card via Network for Good (see link below); or personal check (c/o Hilton Pond Center, 1432 DeVinney Road, York SC 29745). You can also donate through our Facebook fundraising page.

The following donors made contributions to Hilton Pond Center during the period 16-21 January 2022:

  • Sue Bridson (repeat donor)
  • Russell Farris (via PayPal)
  • The friends below contributed via the "Donate" button on one of the Center's Facebook postings or fund-raisers; some may be repeat contributors. Several have set up through Facebook to make a recurring monthly donation to benefit the Center. Many are long-time donors.
    Susan Stone.
    * = past participant in Operation RubyThroat Neotropical Hummingbird expedition

    ** = recurring monthly Facebook donor
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The Piedmont Naturalist--Vol. 1--1986 (Hilton Pond Press)
is an award-winning collection of timeless newspaper columns that first appeared in The Herald in Rock Hill SC. Optimized for tablets such as iPad and Kindle, electronic downloads of the now out-of-print paperback volume are available by clicking on the links below. The digital version includes pen-and-ink drawings from the original print edition--plus lots of new color photos.
All sales go to support the work of
Hilton Pond Center.

16-21 January 2022

Chipping Sparrow--
American Goldfinch--45
Northern Cardinal--3

House Finch--
White-throated Sparrow--2

Tufted Titmouse--1

* = new banded species for 2022

78 species
6 individuals

9 species (41-yr. avg. = 64.4)

122 individuals
(41-yr. avg. =

(Banding began 28 June 1982; since then 173 species have been observed on or over the property.)
128 species banded
75,003 individuals banded

6,909 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds banded since 1984

(with original banding date, verified sex, and current age):
American Goldfinch (3)
01/23/19--after 5th year male
09/13/21--3rd year male

09/23/21--2nd year male

Chipping Sparrow (1)
01/31/20--after 2nd year unknown

Northern Cardinal (3)
10/03/20--3rd year male
08/14/21--2nd year female
08/29/21--2nd year female

Tufted Titmouse (1)
10/27/20--after 2nd year female

House Finch (1)
05/30/21--2nd year female

White-throated Sparrow (1)
01/04/21--3rd year unknown

** Notable local longevity for species

--As of 21 Jan, the Hilton Pond's 2022 Yard List stood at 35--about 20% of 173 avian species encountered locally since 1982. (Incidentally, all species so far this year have been observed from the windows or porches of our old farmhouse!) If you're not keeping a Yard List for your own property we encourage you to do so, and to report your sightings via eBird, where you, too, can be a "citizen scientist!") New species observed locally during the period 16-21 Jan: Wood Duck, Black Vulture, Blue Jay, Fox Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird.

--Our immediate past installment of "This Week at Hilton Pond" was about our slow banding start in 2022. It's archived and always available on our Web site as Installment #762.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Oct 15 to Mar 15:
East of the Rockies please report your sightings of
Vagrant & Winter Hummingbirds

(immature male Rufous Hummingbird at right)

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