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Park… Bond Park

March 28, 2011

First things first, Noah and I went birding on Saturday morning at Mason Farm. I managed two new first of years, Northern Parula and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (I’m putting these new Big Year birds in bold from here on out, see?) and a completely unexpected put appreciated Northern Harrier.  The day was overcast and cold so no photographs, but if I’m writing about this Big Year thing I should mention where and when I picked up these birds.

As rough as Saturday was in the weather department, Sunday was worse. I had gotten permission from the wife to take off for the morning but it was hardly the kind of day anyone would want to stay out in for any length of time, and certainly not in March after we’ve been so cruelly tempted by spring just the week before.  But the day did improve, in at least the rain stopped, and by the time the afternoon rolled around I was feeling the urge to get out, especially since I had plans to chase a staked out bird that I need for the year and I was loathe to give that up for another week.  So when Noah went down for his afternoon nap I convinced my wife to let me slip away for a bit, and I headed into Wake County, to Bond Park in Cary.  A place to which I’d never been, but a place that promised a bird I’d be unlikely to see again this year.

Even though the temperature barely peaked into the 40s this weekend, spring seems to have burst out overnight.  The understory was almost completely leafed out, and a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers contained several ratty individuals looking more fit for spring than anything I’ve seen all winter. You know spring is on the way when the Myrtles start changing.

Bond Park abuts a large lake surrounded by nice houses that look out on the water.  Unlike other similar lakes in the area, however, there’s a public trail that runs around the lake through the back yards of several of the houses.  It’s a nice touch, and provides access to some of the bad parts of the lake where you’re likely to come across some waterfowl.  Manky Mallards are the dominant species, but I also flushed a pair of Wood Ducks and a pair of first of year Blue-winged Teal, a completely unexpected pickup, putting me closer to closing the book on regularly occurring waterfowl in the Triangle.  Now if I can only find a Pintail…

But even with the flagrant signs of spring everywhere, the bird I had in mind was a little more wintry in nature. A local birder had been reporting a Red-breasted Nuthatch in the area most of the winter.  They’re not rare or anything, and are usually present in the area every year in small numbers, but they’re not a bird you’re likely to run across on your regular birding.  In the six years I’ve been birding the Triangle, I’d seen it only once before.

Fortunately, the local had given extremely specific directions, so when I arrived at the spot I paused, heard the characteristic tin horn bleating of the Nuthatch (interestingly while simultaneously hearing both the regular nuthatches, Brown-headed and White-breasted too), and waited until I spotted this little guy working a pine tree.  Target acquired!

The Nuthatch was at home in the unseasonable cold, but not everything seemed perfectly happy in the windy and drizzle.  A flock of Northern Rough-winged Swallows was working the surface of the lake, apparently finding some flying insects despite the cold, but there were even more tucked into the dense part of a overhanging Sycamore tree.  I’m not the type to ascribe human emotions to non-human entities, but they certainly gave an impression of wanting to be anywhere but here this weekend.  Hopefully it’ll warm up enough to keep the bugs moving.  I imagine it can be rough for an early swallow in a cold snap.

I was feeling pretty lucky on the walk back to the car – three new birds for the day, and six for the weekend, was far more than I expected – so I put my binoculars to a flock of Robins and Cowbirds foraging in a wet mowed field.  I figured it was just the sort of place you could come across a Vesper Sparrow or some other unusual bird tucked in with the flock.

No sparrow sadly, but I did spot this lonely female Rusty Blackbird in the midst of some Cowbirds.  Nothing super unusual, but a good enough bird to note, and a testimony to making sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.  I can think of countless times I might have written off a flock and missed it, but I didn’t this time.

Another productive weekend.

113 down, 103 to go

  1. March 28, 2011 5:45 pm

    “Park… Bond Park”

    Sean Connery, you’re NOT… but I still laughed myself silly on that one! (…after a delayed reaction)

    …oh, and nice bird sightings too.

  2. March 29, 2011 11:01 am

    Funny how some of our feathered friends love to hide in plain sight in the middle of a crowd of others. I need to use that line in my next Birder Murder – thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Nate permalink*
    March 29, 2011 10:17 pm

    @Cyberthrush- No Sean Connery. Not even Timothy Dalton, really.

    @birdermurdermama- Too true. Blackbirds are notorious for just that.

  4. April 1, 2011 4:21 am

    Man, I am definitely out of shape: when I saw the picture of the Yellow-rump, I thought the yellow tuft on the flanks was part of the leaf in the foreground and thought: “Wow, Cerulean, and this early?”

    I think my health insurance should pay for a medical treatment trip to Pelee this May.

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