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The OC

November 12, 2007
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Yeah, that’s right, the OC. Orange County, y’all. Except I live in the one with more rednecks and fewer mansions (except for John Edwards’ monster estate). And this past Saturday I found myself hitting the farms and fields west of town looking for prairie birds. Prairie birds? In North Carolina? Absolutely. While the triangle down around Raleigh is all sprawl and suburbs the folks on my end have been pretty smart about keeping the land open, which is good for a different variety of birds than I usually get in the area. Out here we get more raptors, and more open space birds in general. It’s a nice change of pace.

 

Thar be Pipits in that field. At least, that’s what I thought when we pulled up, and lo and behold, that’s just what we found. A flock of about a dozen American Pipits tooled around on the crest of the hill allowing us to put them in the scope. Sharp little birds, they were joined by several Mourning Doves and Eastern Meadowlarks still singing their hearts out even though we’re getting into November and we had our first frost the last week. Lapland Longspurs had been reported in North Carolina this week but this field was Lappy-less. I may have to wait till I go back to Missouri for the holidays for that guy. I need a new lifer, I’m tired of staring at the rather lame Mute Swan proclaimed for all to see as my last life bird over to the right. Geez, how embarassing.

A beautiful male American Kestrel spooked the Pipits so we moved on, stopping at a windbreak to look for sparrows. Nothing but the usual Songs, White-throats and Chippys, but the Northern Mockingbird sat atop a Eastern Red Cedar for me. We meandered down another road, stopping near an old retainment pond where a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk watched us pick a Savannah Sparrow out of a flock of Songers. Then a gorgeous female Northern Harrier cleared the levee and began sweeping back and forth along the bushes 100 meters in front of us for several minutes while we just watched. I suppose I should’ve tried to take a picture, and it didn’t occur to me to do so until the bird was gone, but I don’t know that I could have put my binoculars down long enough for it. It would have been a dandy had I been a photog though, the low autumn morning light, the browns and beiges of the field and the corresponding colors of the bird. And right there too!

We pulled up next to a farm that historically has been good for White-crowned Sparrow and as soon as we got out of the car…BAM…we could hear the birds singing. I love the fact that that the Zonotrichias sing year round, it’s so hopeful (for me that is, the birds could care less I imagine). We found about seven or eight of them in the fencerow, including some really nice adults. I took a sort of awful photo of one to the left. It was a new bird for the year for me, very exciting. You guys who get loads of them every winter may wonder why I’m a little giddy about this sparrow that’s found from sea to shining sea. To you I say get out your Sibley and check that range map, notice how it cuts off a sliver of the southeast, guess where I am. You got it. I only get maybe one or two of these birds every year, it’s a treat. Plus they’re such classy looking birds, how can you not enjoy them? I ask you, how?

The drive out to the last stop was nice, a couple Red-shouldered Hawks and a distant Merlin added to what was my best raptor haul in a while. We pulled in to Cane Creek reservoir, a small lake that provides water for… well, me, actually. It’s down quite a bit but it’s not as bad as those further east. Makes me glad Chapel Hill is in essence a small town. Add that to what have traditionally been a progressive minded populace and civic leadership and you have a town that’s better off, especially when it comes to use of natural resources. While my drinking and flushing water looked ok, the lake was not particularly birdy, a small flock of the ever-present Canada Geese and a handful of Ruddy Ducks were all we found.

So then it was home to work on a paper due this week (incidentally about birds, I’ll break it up and make a series out of it, look for it later). One more year bird puts me within 10 for 300 for the year, which sounds more impressive if you ignore the fact that a third of those birds are from Texas earlier this spring. So please, ignore that fact.

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One Comment
  1. Sniderman permalink
    November 13, 2007 12:41 am

    Bout the only thing going down here right now are the RB Nuthatches and abundant Pine Siskens.

    Of course, it looks like a Hitchcock remake in my yard right now. Thinking about a Red Rider BB gun…

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