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Working at Birds

June 15, 2009

Now that the baby’s here I’ve had to be more clever about making time to bird. Gone, for the time being, are the runs down to Weymouth Woods to find Red-cockaded Woodpeckers or the trips out east for migrating shorebirds. But it’s not all bad, there are still lots of birds around, even if they lack the caché of RCWs and rare shorebirds.

Lately, I’ve been heading in to work at the star factory (actually the Morehead Planetarium) a little early and taking that extra time to stroll through the University’s Coker Arboretum, a small, but frequently productive bit of land that just happens to be right next door.

The birds are the usual ones you’d expect in any slightly forested area in the southeast. Robins, Cardinals, and all three Mimids make regular appearences, but I’ve also found a family of Great Crested Flycatchers and once, in the first week of May, a transient Blackpoll Warbler making it’s way through an ornamental pine.

Being an arboretum, the main concern is interesting trees, many of which are or were native to the southeast in addition to the many Asian species. For such a small place the variety is significant, with several examples of interesting species. My personal favorite is this huge and craggy White’s Pine. That’s right, not white, but White’s. I didn’t know there was a difference either.

The arboretum also hosts a Metasequoia, a chinese species closely related to the famous trees in California. However, the soil in the area isn’t condusive to it flourishing, so while it grows fine, it reaches only about 50 feet instead of the 100 + it might in the wild.

Being only about 5 acres, with well-maintained trails, the area is pretty easy to survey in 20 to 30 minutes, and I’ve taken to creating an eBird personal hotspot location for it so I can keep track of the changing abundance of birds nearby. I’m up to about 60 species in the short time I’ve been doing it, not bad for a forgotten corner of campus.

And a nice way to feed the birding jones these days.

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