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.
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.
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!
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…
…or this Yellow-breasted Chat.
We also saw a nice male 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!