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A Waterthrush is Spring

April 5, 2010
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Spring arrived in North Carolina with all the bluster of a houseguest for whom “make yourself at home” is an invitation without caveats.  Within a week we went from near freezing overnight to close to 90 degrees.  The trees quickly vaulted into action, dumped an entire season’s worth of pollen over two days which covered every surface with a fine yellow dust and madethose who suffer from allergies immediately miserable.  In one week we have nearly full canopies of leaves and the little early migrants find plenty of places to hide from from cursing, stuffy nosed birders.  This is how we welcome spring in North Carolina, which would be had enough if we didn’t have wait another two to three weeks for the big migration fireworks to start going off.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the vanguard hasn’t arrived in early April.  I mentioned the first Yellow-throated Warblers last week and this week, when I traveled to Eno River State Park just west of Durham, the slow parade was still chugging past.

I go to Eno every year at this time for one bird, for which Eno is one of the most reliable places in the area to find.  And while Yellow-throated Warblers are nice and all, and don’t get me wrong they’re great (even if some do winter along the Gulf coast), it’s just not spring without the first of the warblers that actually winter entirely in parts south.  And the first of those to come winging back to sweet Caroline is the Louisiana Waterthrush.

As soon as I stepped out of the car I heard the scratchy calls of Gnatcatchers along with the zip-up song of the Northern Parula.  Both were first of season birds and nice additions to the day list, but not the bird I was looking specifically for.  For that I had to walk up the trail a bit, where the riverine forest turned at once brambly and rocky and the water coursing through rocks added a dull roar that threatened to overtake the morning birdsong, where a fluid slurry song rang out from up the path.

I stopped for a second, and turned my eyes to the river’s edge when on an waterworn log hopped a sweetly bobbing little songbird, and then a second.  The male of the pair sang again and disappeared into the bramble.  I waited, hoping to get a chance to digiscope one of them until the male jumped up to the top of a dead tree…

and sang…

and sang…

for nearly 15 minutes in all while I sat below and took photos and enjoyed.

So I guess it’s officially spring now.  Finally.

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5 Comments
  1. April 5, 2010 12:30 pm

    Well I need to get myself out to the Eno! I’ve been looking for a Louisiana Waterthrush recently, but I’ve not been able to find a good place. What’s the key, getting there at dawn? All the promising Waterthrush sites I get to after a bit of searching, and by that time it’s about 10am – and I can’t help but thinking the Waterthrush had just been there earlier!

  2. Nate permalink*
    April 5, 2010 1:49 pm

    @Robert – Eno is a pretty reliable place to find them. The Buckwater creek trail that runs along the river usually has several singing birds that are very accessible. That’s where this one was.

  3. April 6, 2010 5:02 pm

    If ONLY a waterthrush is spring, I am screwed here in Germany. Does it count to see a European Turdus thrush anywhere near some water?

  4. April 7, 2010 10:22 am

    And sang and sang and sang. I love it! But I was most tickled by the pollen description and the sniffling birders roaming the newly verdant landscape. That sounds terribly familiar.

  5. April 7, 2010 11:10 am

    Here in Upstate NY, the Louisiana Waterthrush is a sign of spring. Although the 1st ones just arrived yesterday, they soon will be singing from nearly every stream in the area. But as gorgeous of birds as they are, they stop singing, often by early May… and then are very hard to find until the next April.

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