Monday, May 7, 2012

Spring Sprang Sprung

It has been a whirlwind the past few weeks with birding, term papers and field work…and now I find myself finally updating this blog with the first week of May gone.  Most of the exciting spring migrants have already passed over the rapidly warming central piedmont in favor of higher latitudes and elevations. 

Blackpoll Warbler

I saw this Blackpoll Warbler out my window the other day; a harbinger of the beginning of the end of spring migration.

According to the old-timers at the Carolina Club’s 75th Anniversary meeting in Raleigh this past weekend, the rain storms just didn’t come at the right time to cause the fallout that every birder prays for in spring.  As a result many of the uncommon transient warblers were downright rare.  Nevertheless through two full days of leading area field trips for CBC participants I was able to turn up 21 warbler species.  Not bad at all!

Of course this says more about the sites I was assigned than anything else.  

On my Saturday morning trip to the ever popular birding hotspot, Mason Farm, we stumbled upon one migrant flock that had a Magnolia and Cape May Warbler—both gorgeous males!  And the entry marsh had a about a dozen sandpipers: mostly Solitary with a few Least and a Spotted. 

In the afternoon I took a smaller group to Eno River State Park where we got Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers and lots of Black-throated Blue Warblers.  But the coolest sighting might have been the Red-shouldered Hawk that flew by with a snake in its bill.  
My co-leader, Mike McCloy, showing CBC members a Kentucky Warbler at Howell Woods

On Friday I led a group to Howell Woods down in Johnston County, which is thick with bottomland swamp species such as Hooded Warbler, Kentucky Warbler and Acadian Flycatcher. 

Acadian Flycatcher
It even has the elusive Swainson’s Warbler, which cooperatively sat up and sang for the group giving nearly everyone fantastic looks and me a passable photo of lifer #1553!

Swainson's Warbler!
Legendary naturalist Scott Weidensaul was in our group and even he was thrilled by this bird.  Or at least he said as much before electrifying the club and visitors with a talk about the wonders of bird migration.  Both Scott’s presentation and the venue, the recently completed North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, left me awestruck.  It was a fantastic way to cap the meeting.  


Last weekend I covered Quail Roost with Tom Krakauer for the Durham spring bird count again and we crushed our total from last year by about 10 species.  We had Natalia Ocampo-Penuela partially to thank for this; she came along to get a few life birds and ended up spotting one of the better birds of the count: a gorgeous male Blackburnian Warbler!  But the best bird for me was a flock of about 120 Bobolinks we found in a field of alfalfa. 
Bobolinks! Durham bird #204

Since the count was in late April, it was the first chance to see many of the returning breeding birds singing away on territory, such as this Blue Grosbeak…
Blue Grosbeak

…or this Yellow-breasted Chat.
Yellow-breasted Chat

We also saw a nice male Orchard Oriole.  
Orchard Oriole
There’s still time for some late-moving migrants, but once June rolls around and the summer heat really fires up I recommend visiting the beach or the coast...and to bring a bathing suit as well as binoculars!


  1. Whoooo you're getting it done Scott!
    I guess it's small game for the usual east coast migratory movements but still, this post is packed with diverse species and lovely photos.

    I almost feel bad for Robins...Orchard Oriole does those colors so much better.

    Thanks for taking the time to post Scott.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Laurence!

      Wouldn't it be nice if Orchard Orioles were as ubiquitous as Robins? It's hard to imagine getting bored of seeing them!

      I have to say the photos on your blog really put mine to shame, but I'll take the compliments wherever I can get 'em!


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  3. Nice, Scott! Say how would one go about getting in on one of your groups? I'd love to join you before the migrants are gone.

  4. Hi Jill,
    The field trips I mention in this post were organized by the Carolina Bird Club. I highly recommend getting involved with this organization:
    There's also the Chapel Hill Bird Club, which runs a lot of local trips:
    But I'm afraid I won't be leading anymore group field trips this season, so you may have to wait until fall.
    Your blog is really looking great by the way. Keep it up!
    Thanks for commenting