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The Essential Pipit: An Anthus-ology

March 4, 2008

I can’t wait for Daylight Savings Time to begin. Not only do the summer evenings start to open up, but perhaps most importantly, the sun stays low until 7:00, making the best of morning birding suddenly accessible again. Count me as someone who is adamantly for the recent decision to move up Daylight Savings a couple weeks. It’s great for birders.

I bring that up because I got somewhat of a late start yesterday, but the plan was to stay close to home again, which is fine. I had a few birds that for whatever reason I had yet to come across. They certainly weren’t birds worth their own special trips, just the ones you might see on any given trip around the state. I mentioned Hairy Woodpecker yesterday, but also included in this motley array were Lesser Scaup, Rusty Blackbird, and the bird I wanted to clean up on this particular time out, American Pipit.

I’ve had good luck finding the birds out in western Orange County in the past. The fields left fallow and the closely cropped pastures for livestock are certainly pipit pleasing. But that was back in December. Now that we’ve had a few warmer weeks the fields have had some growth, and the bare dirt favored by my quarry are replaced by grass. The pipits may well still be in the fields, but it certainly gets harder to find them from my perspective. A farm pond held a good number of Hooded Merganser and a few Shovelor. The ducks are moving these days.


So on and on I drove the back roads west of Carrboro following a familiar rhythm; pull off the road, scan, move on, rinse and repeat. On and on across the piedmont. I found some great pipit friendly habitat too. Some, like at right, where I thought that if there was no pipit here, I doubted even that there were any pipits left in North Carolina. My fields, once full of scurrying brown birds, where full only of farmers spraying pesticides in preparation for the upcoming year. It was time to give up, but like a junkie needing a fix, the ducks seen earlier gave me an idea.

One quick jaunt out to Jordan Lake later, I was scanning the lake for ducks. The water was like glass and while the numbers of gulls and cormorants are down from their peaks earlier I still managed to find decent numbers of Bonaparte’s Gulls among the boats of fisherman taking advantage of the nice day. But a flock of ducks across the water caught my eye, and among the Ruddys and Redheads were a half dozen of a new bird for my year, Lesser Scaup.

There are those that say that Big Years are bad for birding because those listers are not interested in birds as much as numbers. That may be a legitimate concern, but I venture I was even more excited about these Scaup than I was 15 years ago when I saw my first ones. I was jonesing for a new year bird, and the scaup, while not flashy, fit the bill. So to speak.

One Comment
  1. Jochen permalink
    March 4, 2008 1:36 pm

    Pipits rock.

    That’s the disadvantage of birding NA: only one rather widespread species.

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