Carolina Young Birders Club


Welcome to the Carolina Young Birders Club Blog!  All members are welcome to post pertinent information about birds or birding in the Carolinas region!

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The Forgotten Ones

Posted by Matt on September 8, 2014 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (1)

As national media makes coverage of the centennial of the Passenger Pigeon's extinction on September 1st, and the general public is reintroduced to the pantheon of extinct North American birds, us birders always seem to recall the "forgotten ones": those extinct birds that seem to get no exposure nowadays outside of the birding community.  The Ivory-billed Woodpecker became a folk hero several years ago when it was "rediscovered" in the Cache River of Arkansas.  The Heath Hen story is a Martha's Vineyard staple- probably one of the few extinct birds with a gift shop named after it!  The Carolina Parakeet is celebrated as the northernmost parrot.  The Great Auk has both a journal and formerly a cigarette brand named after this antipodean penguin.  The Passenger Pigeon, of course, is the extinction branded into the American conscience by guilt.  Mass slaughter of pigeons at their nesting sites reduced numbers from 5 billion to none in a century.  But the Labrador Duck? This piebald sea-goer was probably never common.  It fed on molluscs living off the shores of New England and Atlantic Canada.  Their diet was a double-edged sword: it made the Labrador Duck distasteful, and unsuitable for hunting.  However, molluscs need pristine water conditions to thrive.  When the Industrial Revolution began, effluent from coastal cities was piped untreated into the ocean.  As it was, the Long Island Sound was the Labrador Duck's primary wintering area... by 1880 they were extinct.  The Eskimo Curlew was shot by the hundreds on their New England migration areas and the extinction of one of its primary food sources in the Great Plains, a grasshopper species, further depleted the Curlew's numbers.  The Eskimo Curlew was last seen definitivley in the 1960s but sporadic reports continue to this day.  The Bachman's Warbler had a similar fate.  Formerly an uncommon breeder in the canebrakes of the Southeast, there are still a few lucky birders alive who were fortunate enough to spy Bachman's Warblers while they were still around.  Wintering in Cuba, much of the Warbler's habitat was converted into agricultural areas, and in the southeast many canebrakes were converted into pine plantations. The last stronghold was I'on Swamp near Charleston, SC although the final confirmed report was in 1988 in Louisiana.  And the Dusky Seaside Sparrow (an extinct subspecies, like the Heath Hen) formerly inhabited marshy areas in South Florida.  A poster child for conservation in the 1980s, efforts to save the sparrow failed when a fire destroyed the home of the last colony of sparrows.  Now, even Dusky Seaside Sparrows are forgotten by most of the general public.

These are just North American examples of the Earth's "6th Great Extinction": one brought about by humans.

Matthew Janson


A Young Birders Camp

Posted by Matt on August 14, 2014 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi Everyone! Hope you are staying cool and finding lots of new birds this summer!

Since Summer means no more school for a couple months, it's the ideal time for young birders to travel to different destinations within the region or around the world.  At first you may look at your limitations: budget, time, family obligations, etc.  But not to worry, if you want to have a birding adventure during the summer, you need to look no farther than a slew of summer camps around the country that are exclusive to young birders.  Most are spaced out during different weeks to help get around time constraints and many also offer financial aid in the form of scholarships; local bird clubs or Audubon societies may also wish to sponsor your trip.  Personally I have been fortunate enough to attend 2 young birders camps so far in Delaware and Colorado.  Other CYBC members have attended camps in Upstate New York.  

Some of the more recognized camps include: (I am sure there are others out there I am missing)

Hog Island, off Bremen, Maine (Offered by the National Audubon Society).  Puffins, seabirds, boreal birds & more.  Family camps too.

ABA's Camp Colorado (Estes Park).  Alpine, montane, & grassland birds.  Usually in July.

ABA's Camp Avocet (Lewes, Delaware).  Shorebirds, shorebirds, & more shorebirds.  (Other birds too) :) Usually in August.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Young Birder Event (Ithaca, New York). Competetive- limited number of spaces. Normally in July

Victor Emmanuel Tours' Young Birder Events.  These vary in location & destination but Camp Chiricahua is annual in SE Arizona.

Hopefully you will consider a young birders camp next summer as a fun way to not only see new birds but also meet other young birders from around the country!

Happy Birding,


Sighting a Swamp Warbler

Posted by Matt on June 18, 2014 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (2)

Sprites, legend has it, are usually seen at unexpected times, popping out of dark forests and dreary swamps and frightening innocent passerby.

I believe the Golden Swamp (Prothonotary) Warbler to be an avian sprite.  Their brilliant colors, secretive hideouts in places few people roam, and their "here now, gone in a second" behavior gives them an existence as one of birding's most prized sightings, one generally well worked for, with diehards traversing through mud, swatting hordes of swamp insects and dodging other potentially dangerous swamp inhabitants for a quick glimpse of the Golden Swamp Warbler's mystical glow.

In the modern times thanks to the introduction of boardwalks and DEET, birders may have a better chance of reaching the Swamp Warbler's haunts.  But they're still at the mercy of the swamp warbler and whether he feels like a foraging jaunt today.

So it was serendipity when I set out kayaking on Cane Creek Lake in Union County (NC) the second weekend of June.  It wasn't a birding trip, merely a day to try out the new kayaks. Thankfully I had grabbed the bins on the way out the door but it would turn out I wouldn't need them very much. Cane Creek Lake had great birding, including Scarlet Tanagers, Osprey, and Black and White Warbler.  But a shaded cove had the greatest bird of the day.  Paddling into the cove you wouldn't necessarily think it to be great Golden Swamp Warbler habitat. The forest was second- or third-growth, with spindly pines and oaks mingling with a few spared giants. A road lay just a few dozen yards from the terminus of the cove.  No cavities suitable for Golden Swamp Warbler nest sites could be found.  So you can imagine my disbelief when about 3 feet in front of my boat a dazzling male Swamp Warbler landed on an overhanging branch, no optics needed. The warbler foraged there for about 5 minutes at incredibly close range, as I backed away from the branch so I wouldn't disturb it.  Then as suddenly as it appeared, the Golden Swamp Warbler flew rapidly across the cove and into the dense woodland.  Despite my best efforts to relocate the bird, these were futile.  Ghost-like, the Swamp Warbler had vanished again.

I think this experience enhanced my belief that birding by boat is a great way to find birds.  Not only are some riparian species difficult to spot from land thanks to their propensity to live their entire lives along waterways, but birds (in my experience) tend to not recognize a human in a boat as a threat as much as they would a human tramping about ape-like through their habitat.

Notable birds I have spotted by boat include a Ringed Kingfisher on the Rio Grande, Brant on the Ocracoke-Hatteras Ferry, and an Anhinga on Hilton Head's Canals.  Of course you could get particular and introduce a whole slew of pelagic species which may only be spotted by boat, such as petrels, shearwaters, and tropicbirds!

Happy Birding (maybe by boat :))

Matthew Janson


Carolina Young Birders Club

Spring Migration

Posted by Matt on April 21, 2014 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (1)

The spring migration is now underway!  Vireos, orioles, warblers, tanagers, swallows, hummingbirds, flycatchers, thrushes, and more have begun pouring into the Carolinas, exhausted from a journey thousands of miles long from their winter abodes in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.  The ruby-throated hummingbird, for example, weighing the same as 5 paperclips or less, undertakes a 500 mile, 20 hour non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Gulf Coast of the United States.  Many will perish during the migration, and those who make it to the north shore of the Gulf must still run a suburban gauntlet of cats, windows, and disorienting nighttime lights (many songbirds are nocturnal migrants).  "So why migrate?", you may ask.  Birds that we call neotropical migrants, ones that make long-distance migrations between the Americas, have evolved over millions of years to capture and consume insects with maximum efficiency.  Insects make up a diet higher in protein and nutrients than seeds and other vegetative matter.  During the last Ice Age, these "neotropical migrants" were still tropical species, trapped in an equatorial environment that was warm enough to support insects year-round.  At this time, glaciers and ice caps spread as far south as Pennsylvania and Ohio, and the Carolinas were dominated by boreal forest.  Eventually, as the climate warmed, insects could thrive during summer far into Canada and Alaska.  Neotropical migrants took an ecological risk: by engaging in long and dangerous migrations twice a year, they could experience the "best of both worlds": plenty of insect food to feed their young in less competitive northern breeding grounds, and ample insect food in the tropics during winter, when insects in the US and Canada are dead or inactive.  

Take time this spring to find some of these colorful and fascinating wonders of the avian world!

Join the Carolina Young Birders Club on our Warbler Walk at Latta Park in Charlotte on April 26th.  More details on the "Events & Field Trips" Page.  Hope to see you there!

Matthew Janson

President, Carolina Young Birders Club.

Weymouth Woods Field Trip Report

Posted by Matt on March 24, 2014 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (2)

8 birders joined the Carolina Young Birders Club for the inaugural field trip at Weymouth Woods Sandhills State Preserve in Southern Pines, North Carolina.  We had a great time in the beautiful weather; mid-60s with a light breeze.  31 species were counted.  Highlights included 6 of 8 possible species of woodpecker, including a male Red-cockaded Woodpecker showing off close to the trail, good looks at a male Pileated Woodpecker and a lingering Yellow-bellied Sapsucker feeding only feet away.  Other birds of interest included a singing Blue-headed Vireo.  Pine Warblers and Brown-headed Nuthatches were abundant.  

All the participants had a wonderful time.  I hope you will join us on our next field trip!

Field Trip updates can be found on the Field Trip and Events Page.  Our next event is a Breeding Bird Survey in June.

Contribute to when and where you want to have the next field trip at the Forum.  Continue an existing thread or start a new one - all members can post!

Happy Birding,

Matthew Janson

President, Carolina Young Birders Club

Year Listing

Posted by Matt on February 17, 2014 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (4)

This year, I finally began keeping up with a year list.  Several other birders I met keep year lists as a measurement of how many bird species they see in one year.  Year listing makes birding a lot more fun in my opinion.  Every year you can start with a clean slate, and each new bird, regardless of whether you have seen it before, is almost as special as a new life bird!  January and February prove to be some of the most fun birding of all, and December can be frantic trying to add on a few more species!

I'm especially keeping track of the birds I see in the Carolinas for 2014.  Some good places to boost your year list in the Carolinas- #1. The Coast, especially in Winter: the coast is a magnet for birds, with an abundance of open land and watery habitats. In winter, waterfowl fill ponds and seasides across the Carolinas.  #2. The Mountains.  Highland habitats provide refuge for numerous species normally found farther north, such as Red Crossbill and Common Raven.  #3. Anywhere during Migration: even your local patch can provide a varied variety of Neotropical migrants twice per year, including birds that neither breed nor winter in the Carolinas such as Tennessee Warbler and Gray-cheeked Thrush.

Bonus ticks: to get even more birds for your year list, here are some bonus opportunities: Bonus 1: Rarities.  Visiting stakeouts for unusual species definitely allows your list to grow much more than it usually would.  Bonus 2: Gulf Stream Pelagic.  A trip out at sea can yield birds that would never be seen from land, such as Tropicbirds and Petrels during summer and Skuas and Puffins during winter.

As you can see year listing can add fun to your birding!


Matt Janson

President, Carolina Young Birders Club

Urban Youth Birding

Posted by Matt on January 20, 2014 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (0)

This week I was privileged enough to volunteer at Billingsville Elementary School in the inner city of Charlotte, NC.  I taught the grade schoolers about the birds that came to their feeders that were set up by their teacher.  We also talked about the 3 basics to identifying birds: size, shape, and plumage coloration.  Most of the students were very interested.  They were able to identify many of the feeder birds and had located a hornet's nest in a crabapple tree in the courtyard.  One of the students explained to the class the birdlife of his home country Guatemala, mentioning the Resplendent Quetzal, featured on the national flag, and the Horned Guan, a near-endemic often sought after by birders in Guatemala:

I was impressed with all the students.  Thanks to volunteers and teachers, they were learning to observe and enjoy birds, and set out feeders at home and look for birds as alternatives to watching TV and playing digital games.  I believe this shows that anyone can be interested in birding, and be a successful observer.  Activities such as birding allow these troubled youth to divert their thoughts from domestic issues including violence, hunger, etc. and focus on other hobbies.

If you have any opportunities to volunteer at schools in the urban core, please take advantage.  These kids need an opportunity to discover new activities and broaden their horizons.

Also, stay tuned for the first field trip announcement!

Happy Birding,

Matthew Janson (President, CYBC)

Snowy Owl Sensation

Posted by Matt on December 14, 2013 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

As the official start of winter approaches, Carolina birders have been treated to some early Holiday surprises: several snowy owls across the region! Most notable was the owl present at Cape Point in Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Buxton, NC. It appeared Thanksgiving week and continued for many days afterward, rewarding many birders who slogged out to the Outer Banks great views of an elusive northern visitor, and, for many, with a check mark on the life list! (Some birders were also able to see the irregular visitor Snow Bunting along the same stretch of beach the Snowy Owl was frequenting!) Also in the eastern parts of the Carolinas were Snowy Owls in Englehard, NC, Raleigh at the Waste Water Treatment Plant, and a one-day wonder at Cape Romain NWR, one of only a handful of records in South Carolina.  Western North Carolina birders, however, were in for a real surprise, when a Snowy Owl showed up in Transylvania County near Rosman***.  Another report came from Randolph County, but could not be confirmed.  And elsewhere along the east coast, reports have been staggering.  Last week 9 could be seen in the New York City area, as well as nearly 20 near Boston.  Along stretches of Newfoundland coast, local birders have counted over 200 in a morning stroll.  Experts believe an abundance of lemmings, rodents that make up most of the owls' summer diets, this breeding season contributed to an extremely successful year for the owls.  Therefore, older owls claim the birds' usual wintering territory in the northern U.S. and much of Canada, expelling younger, immature birds that are showing up hundreds of miles south of their normal range.  Unfortunately after such a long journey, many of these adolescents will die due to starvation or exhaustion.  Thankfully the owl at Buxton took to eating gulls, caught "red-taloned" and with a blood-stained bill, and strong enough to fend off a marauding Peregrine Falcon, but (***) the Transylvania bird was quite weak and, nearing death, was captured by a local bird rehabilitator.  Now nicknamed "Tundra", the immature female is now doing better and accepting food.  Luckily Tundra had no other health problems aside from being dangerously underweight.

Many consider this winter to be one of the most historic Snowy Owl irruptions on record, and it's somewhat likely that more will show up in the Carolinas this winter, given how many have already found the region.  Snowy Owls frequent open fields, beaches, and airports; habitats that appear similar to their tundra habitat where they breed.  The open areas often harbor large numbers of rodents which Snowy Owls depend on for food during the winter months.  Also, if you come across a Snowy Owl, keep your distance.  While some of the birds aren't wary, most will fly off if you get too close, adding to the stress that they already have from their long journeys and their daily fight to find food.

Winter is also just a great time to get out and bird in general.  Without any leaves on the trees, forest birding becomes remarkably easier, and lakes and ponds throughout the Carolinas fill with waterfowl.  Christmas Counts take place in many communities, combining tradition with citizen science.  To find when your local Christmas Count is taking place, get on a listserve, or an e-mail list explaining rarities, good birding spots/tips, and when happenings are occuring.  Most local bird clubs/Audubon chapters (see Links: ;) have a listserve, also the Carolina Bird Club runs a wonderful listserve.

So get out and enjoy the season, whether you are hunting for Snowy Owls or tallying species for science!

Happy Holidays,


November 12th, 2013

Posted by Matt on November 12, 2013 at 7:40 PM Comments comments (5)

As unusually early Snow and Ice blows through much of North Carolina tonight and parts of South Carolina I am reminded of the exciting winter birding coming our way.  Waterfowl have begun making their appearances, including Eurasian Wigeons at the Outer Banks and other nice sightings.  Before long the swans will be returning to their wintering sites throughout parts of the Carolinas.  Also sparrow sightings have been on the upswing, including a nice Vesper sighting by our very own young birder Ryan Justice near Raleigh, as well as Fox and Lincoln's Sparrow.  Juncos and white-throats have returned to backyard feeders after breeding in the high mountains in the Carolinas and boreal forests of Canada. Sapsuckers, creepers, and nuthatches enliven the trees in the forests throughout the region, filling up on acorns, seeds, and the last hardy insects. Hummingbirds stick around at some feeders, especially near the coast.

The point of this post is, get out and get birding!

Enjoy our returning winter birds!

Matt Janson

Charlotte, NC

September 28th, 2013

Posted by Matt on September 28, 2013 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Hi Everyone!  Currently I am at the Carolina Bird Club Meeting in Litchfield Beach, SC, enjoying the sunshine, birds, and fellowship!


If you are interested in joining a new young birders club, use the contact us box at the bottom of the home page, or of course I can be reach by e-mail, text, or phone, in order of availability.  Soon I will get an information e-mail set up as well as other ways for notification, and by Oct. 1st the new website domain should be, but you can still use the old domain name to access the website.  Also, if you are interested in helping with running the club, tell me in the "contact us" box on the homepage.  Ideally we will have a few youth board members that can help with an e-mail newsletter, service projects, and more.


Cheers from the beach!


Matt Janson