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Birding with the library

November 22, 2010

“Hey, I’m going to be in your area. Can you suggest a spot to bird?”

It’s  question I’m asked fairly regularly, as I’m sure other bloggers or any birder who has some sort of public presence on the interwebs.  I’m happy to do it too, if I can find the time.  I really enjoy meeting birders from other parts of the country and showing them some of the birds and sites that I enjoy in my little corner of the biosphere. If we have some time, I’ll take them down to check out the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in the Sandhills or something really exciting, but if a morning is all we can spare, I’m happy to hit some of the local hotspots and spend a leisurely morning pursuing the birdy arts.  Those being binoculary, pishering, and field sparrowtry.

My guest on this day was Grant of the great reading birder’s resource The Birder’s Library.  Unbeknownst to me, Grant has family in the triangle, and was looking for a few places nearby where he could spend a spare couple of hours. I was happy to suggest a couple of my favorites and offered to meet up if he had a Saturday morning open.  Being a fellow southern bird blogger, Grant was less impressed by Brown-headed Nuthatches, my ace in the hole for visiting birders, but he did request Rusty Blackbirds.  They’re far from a sure thing anymore, but I suggested Yates Mill County Park in Wake County, a nice little nature park with some open water and a marshy meadow that might be good Rusty habitats.  Besides, Rusty Blackbird would have been a Wake County bird for be anyway, so I certainly wouldn’t turn one down either.

We met around 8:30 and, after exchanging pleasantries, got to work.  There were several Mallards making their way around the mill pond, along with a small flock of Ruddy Ducks, a handful of Buffleheads and a couple Hooded Mergansers, but the nicest find early on was a single male Wood Duck associating with the Mallards, displaying to and consequently fending off advances from, the larger ducks.  Given all the times I find Wood Ducks by flushing them, it was sort of nice to enjoy one out in the open and at leisure.  Man, if I ever get tired of Wood Ducks, you can take my binoculars cause I don’t deserve them

A family of Red-shouldered Hawks made their presence known, like they do whenever they’re around.  A sharp adult stayed beyond the range of a camera, but this immature sat petulantly nearby, seemingly angry at the fact that it’s no longer on the parents dole.

The best bit of birding was, as I’d hoped, at the wet meadow on the west end of the park.  The grasses were full of Song Sparrows and better, a single stunning Fox Sparrow, a county bird and my first of the season.  I wish I was able to take better photos when the subject is a bird like this.

I had just suggested to Grant that if there were Rusty Blackbirds around that this was the spot we were going to find them when three birds flew in and landed in the top of a Sweetgum.  Binoculars raised and focused to find three Rusty Blackbirds, who paused just long enough to give us a nice look, and to redeem any face I was preparing to lose in the event they didn’t show up.

After that, any other additional pick-up was a bonus, and Grant seemed to walk away happy.  The Rusties, the Fox Sparrow, and the Woody were all county birds, as my Wake County list is small enough that there are significant holes to fill.  It’s more exciting that way.

Anyway, it was great to bird with Grant, and meeting him brings my bird blogger life list up to an even 10 (though it’s 11 if you count Ted Floyd, now of the ABA blog. But I don’t know if he’s countable yet).  So if any bird bloggers find themselves in the triangle area of North Carolina in the future, be sure to drop me a line.  That’s a number I’m always looking to add to.

  1. November 22, 2010 11:13 am

    A Fox Sparrow is just a brown bird in much the same way a Fork-tailed Flycatcher is just a black, white and grey bird.

    That’s how I deal with these things.

  2. jmj permalink
    November 22, 2010 12:03 pm

    I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I often barely look at wood ducks anymore. They are fantastically gorgeous birds, but you do get accustomed to things you see every day. I can (and do) take a walk around the lake in the park directly across the street from my house in Minneapolis and see about 20-30 wood ducks every single day of the year from about march to november. Perhaps I need to put more conscious effort into appreciating them so my binoculars don’t get confiscated 🙂

    Now, a Fox Sparrow — there’s a gorgeous bird. I never get tired of watching them. Our last fox sparrows left several weeks ago already. Interesting that yours have only just shown up now.

  3. November 22, 2010 11:11 pm

    I did, indeed, walk away happy! It was a great morning. The Rusties were just icing on the cake. Thanks again.

  4. Nate permalink*
    November 23, 2010 10:31 am

    @Jochen- Indeed. At least I get to see one with some regularity.

    @jmj- I see them fairly often, but not at length. My typical experience involves flushing birds and watching them head out over the horizon. This one was a treat, and made me realize what I was missing. I’m sure you miss your Fox Sparrows, they’re nothing short of fabulous. And this is an early one, I usually don’t see them until Jan or Feb.

    @Grant- It was my pleasure!

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