Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fall SWAMP count with SAWS

A whopping 14 masters students woke up early last Saturday morning and came out to tag along for a bird count with me in the Duke University Wetland Center (DUWC) Stream and Wetland Assessment and Management Park (SWAMP).  This shows that bird watching is exploding in popularity!  That, or that graduate students will do just about anything for free donuts and coffee, which were graciously provided by the Student Association of Wetland Scientists (SAWS) Duke Chapter.  But probably the real draw was celebrity leader Jeff Pippen who took time out of his busy schedule of finding rare seabirds in Durham to educate us all about everything natural that was to be found.
Jeff Pippen distilling wisdom in SWAMP

The Al Buehler fitness trail runs right through the SWAMP site and gets lots of traffic.  During our count we happened to be sharing space with an actual collegiate cross-country meet.  Obviously this isn’t the most conducive setting for birds and birding and we weren’t able to find any exciting fall migrants. 
A Belted Kingfisher at the pond was a crowd-pleaser.  But the best wetland bird came after everyone had left and I stole off on my own to count one final section of the site that is inaccessible to the public.  At a small vernal pool I stumbled upon a very agitated Green Heron that kept flaring its crown feathers, croaking and flicking its tail.
Green Heron
Here's a video of the tail-flicking part:

I was happy to see the Green Heron, but I think it was upset I hadn’t brought the others.  Even if the birds weren’t spectacular, it was a gorgeous morning and nice to show the restoration areas and new board walks and platforms to the group.  For me it was also more data for my bird study and I learned some new wetland plant species from Jeff.

Check out that Dodo!
 A big thanks to Jeff and all the SAWS participants for making such a great day!

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