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My Life’s Birds: #480

February 23, 2011

August 28, 2008Archie Elledge WTP, NC – Let us once again sing the praises of the water treatment plant!  Resting place of the effluence of affluence.  The last and smelliest line between sewage and salvage.  And for bird and birder, a place of unparalleled, if unexpected, plenty.  And though the science of sewage has come a long way from the time when raw excrement was unceremoniously dumped into waterways, the basic idea is the same.  The worst is skimmed and the rest is pumped into drying beds or lagoons where nature runs its course, and this means by which modern industrialized nations deal with the most unmentionable of their excess just happens to create a most attractive site to many birds because of the concentration of what would be generously called “nutrients”.

Sing, too, the praises of the weekend city utilities security guard!  Who may well have expected a quiet afternoon in the gatehouse but instead was treated to carload after carload of optic toting weirdos who appear to not only know where they’re going, but to intentionally seek out this spot.  By the time I arrived the guard was resigned to the onslaught of birders, shrugging as I lowered my car window and waved my binoculars, the international sign of birding intent at landfill and water plant alike, and headed up on the dike after the object of our interest, a rare Red-necked Phalarope.  The bird was spinning around in one of the settling lagoons, alone but for the resident manky Mallards; an excellent bird for the state, particularly inland.

This confluence of events, the bird’s out of range peregrinations and the “habitat” created by the treatment plant, is hardly remarkable.  Birders well know that places like this are unlikely, but often quite productive, hotspots with the potential to attract any number of great birds.  The circumstances are often odd if you dwell too much on them, but as birders we’re well aware of the inherent craziness of our hobby.  But we accept those idiosyncrasies as part of the game, especially when lifers are involved.

RENEPH via wikipedia

  1. February 23, 2011 10:27 am

    Yes, the sewage treatment plants are fab places to bird almost anywhere. Tuscon AZ which has some of the greatest birding in the country has a plant I never miss when I visit. Where else can you find soras right out in the open only 5 feet away?

  2. Nate permalink*
    February 23, 2011 3:39 pm

    @Jane- I’ve done some birding around the facilities at Sierra Vista and Willcox in AZ. Great birds! And Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Palm Beach County Florida is nothing short of amazing.

  3. February 23, 2011 7:51 pm

    Hornsby Bend in Austin, Tx is one of my favorite places to bird. It has just about everything going through there. Have you been there? Eric Carpenter is in charge of the birding there, if you didn’t know it. He reminds me of you, a good and patient teacher.

    Another great post.




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