Current Cabarrus County Count

This year I decided to expand my birding horizons just a bit by challenging myself to find as many bird species in Cabarrus County as I could. I have birded Cabarrus quite a bit in the past but it has been about 15 years since I have spent any meaningful time there. I thought 200 species over the course of a year was a reasonable challenge. 

In January I compiled a list of species that were “ sure things” in my mind, those species that I could 100% count on seeing. That list turned out to be 189 species, meaning I would need to find only eleven additional “off list” birds.

Such personal challenges are known as Big Years. Birders challenge themselves to count as many species as they can within a county, state, “Lower 48”, or the ABA (American Birding Association) area consisting of all 50 states and all of Canada. All that travel can get expensive, that’s why I go for County Big Years.

Last year, many of the more serious local birders attempted a Mecklenburg Big Year. Mecklenburg is a heavily birded county compared to neighboring counties. Lots more birders, lots of public land. It became a collaborative effort where information on sightings of rarities was shared among the birding community and not kept secret. It was a hot competition but everyone kept it all in perspective.

Cabarrus County has relatively few birders that regularly post their sightings. There is not nearly as much public land either. Where 200 species in Mecklenburg during the course of a year is almost easy, 200 in a neighboring county can be very iffy.

So how am I doing so far? Even I am not sure. Last year by June 30 I had 184 species in Mecklenburg, ending the year on December 31 at 224 species. This year on June 30 I expect to have around 155 for Cabarrus. Its going to be close.

The really nice aspect of concentrating on an unfamiliar county is that you find some really great new birding hotspots, and learn about the breeding and wintering distributions of some interesting species. Every county has unique habitats. The extensive, flat, treeless parking areas around the motor speedway bring in species we don’t get but rarely in Mecklenburg. The extensive wetlands of the Rocky River drainage that run from Rocky River Golf Course to west of Concord Mills are bound to hold some surprises too.

Swainson's Warbler
 Photo by John Ennis


Pleasant surprises so far? In April I located a locally rare Swainson’s warbler singing at the Pharr Family Trail. The bird continued to sing for weeks, and may still be present.

Kentucky Warbler
 Photo by Phil Fowler


One of its neighbors was a singing Kentucky warbler, so tough to find in Mecklenburg these days.

Willow Flycatcher
 Photo by Jeff Lemons

And in the Rocky River wetlands I found that there is at least a small breeding populating of willow flycatchers, another species that doesn’t turn up in Mecklenburg every year. I’ll provide periodic updates on my progress for the second half of the year.