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Nothing but Residents

May 20, 2011
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You know, the morning those first few spring migrants turn up in your back yard, that it can’t last.  Eventually you’ll have a morning in the field where every snippet of sing is familiar, where every chip can be traced, where the entire day’s list consists of the two dozen species you can expect to find between now and mid-August.  Birders farther north can take solace in that fact that they’ve probably got another week to go, but down here we’re putting a bow on spring migration.  The Blackpoll Warblers have sung, friends.  It’s all over but the high frequency see-see-seeing.

I found myself with a couple hours before work yesterday morning, so after dropping Noah off at school and heading in to work, I took in the Occoneechee Speedway Trail in Hillsborough.  This well-maintained nature trail on the site of one of the original NASCAR tracks in the south isn’t exactly the sort of place you’d consider to be a birding hotspot just by its history, but track itself is overgrown and tucked up against a bend in the Eno river such that it’s actually a nice little park, even if you’re just as likely to find stock car racing enthusiasts wandering the grounds as birders.

It certainly didn’t feel like summer with temperatures in the high 50s, but the bird song was set to mid-June.  Cardinals and Pine Warblers were the most prominent.  Gnatcatchers and Chickamice next.  I found a pair of male Hooded Warblers battlinf in their respective territories down by the river but neither showed themselves.  Vireos of both White and Red-eyed varieties sang from treetop and brushy field.  But no migratory warblers, flycatchers, or even late thrushes could be found.  It was only nesters.

The closest thing to a migrant I could find was a young molty American Redstart.  They nest sporadically in the piedmont of central North Carolina, and I’ve seen them around into July in the past, but the vast majority of the Redstarts that hang around this far south are blotchy non-breeders who sing strange loopy songs and are unlikely to breed.  Nothing like the flashy orange and black adults that ring in early spring.

There are still colorful nesting warblers around, though. A male Northern Parula foraged in a mimosa tree as I walked back towards the entrance.  I very nearly caught the photo perfectly, but I couldn’t manage to get the auto-focus to behave.  Isn’t that always the way.

So it looks like summer’s coming on, though there are still a handful of migrating birds left to see .  I’ll be looking for some lingering shorebirds and maybe another shot at Kentucky Warbler this weekend.  Assuming the rapture doesn’t occur Friday night of course, it’s just the end of spring, not the end of the world.

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