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Birding Odds and Ends

November 21, 2013

My Thanksgiving resolution is to attempt to be better about writing here. There have been times in the lifespan of this blog that I’ve had much to say having despite having not been birding much. Thing is, I’ve been birding quite a bit these days. Between days working from home, which usually open with a brief walk around some nearby hotspot, and days working for North Carolina State Parks at my new location, which just so happens to be a functioning state park with excellent birding opportunities, I have been rolling in county ticks.

100 in Guilford County was merely an appetizer. The last couple weeks have seen me blow by that milestone and push ever closer to 150. There is an outside chance I might hit it by the end of the year at the rate things are going. Guilford County is turning out to be hella birdy.

The aforementioned state park, Haw River, is just across the northern border in Rockingham County. My days working there usually start with a quick stroll around a short loop. Since I started there in September, I’ve pulled in 88 species, including some excellent fall warblering. It’s a shame that these won’t count for the new home county, but the Carolina Century Club numbers are increasing in leaps.

So I’ve turned my sights to surrounding counties as well, and the recent report of wintering ducks next door in Forsyth County had me slavering for that next century. I was sitting at 87 yesterday morning, and with a little luck I could leave this one in the dust as well. The site was Archie Elledge Water Treatment Plant, one of the most popular birding locations in Winston-Salem and, thankfully, one of those friendly facilities that is pretty open to birders coming in and poking around. I checked in at the front desk, received a key card emblazoned with the words “NATURE OBSERVER” and headed for the settling pools where all the waterfowl had been congregating.

First thing I saw was not ducks, but a flock of young Wild Turkey poking around on an island in the middle on the pool. Not an entirely expected find, particularly not far out of town, and an even less expected situation. But a county bird nonetheless, and one that could conceivably be tough to find. Maybe things are different this little bit farther west.

Wild Turkey, Forsyth Co, NC

Unexpected Turkeys.

On to the ducks! The majority of the flock was Mallards, not unexpectedly, but a quick scan through found nearly all of the expected winter dabblers. American Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, and a pair of Black Ducks all fell before my scoped eye, and all were added to my burgeoning county list. This was going to be easy.

Mallards are filthy common, but they're still smart looking birds this time of year.

Mallards are filthy common, but they’re still smart looking birds this time of year.

The female Pintail was doing her best to seem innocuous, but her black bill and narrow tail gave her away.

The female Pintail was doing her best to seem Mallard-y, but her black bill and narrow tail gave her away.

A handful of perching birds were new species for the county as well, but not as many as I had expected. Though I came in needing 13 species to cross the century mark, I only ended up with 10 after a couple frustrating dips (Yellow-rumped Warbler? Really?). So I’ll have to return to Forsyth County at some point this winter to put me over the top, at which point I can concentrate on another neighboring county.

A couple other unrelated issues before I disappear for another week or so (though hopefully not). I was asked last month to serve on the North Carolina Bird Records Committee, so now I’m an officially licensed bird policeman for the state of North Carolina. I have some thoughts on what I feel are some pretty obviously needed reforms for the committee, but it’s probably in my best interest to not rick the boat to much for the first few months. In any case, this year I’ve managed to accomplish my two biggest North Carolina birding goals, to serve on the BRC and to be a spotter for Brian Patteson’s boats. Done and done!

Now the only thing left to do is to continue this county century quest. And then, profit?

I don’t know if it works that way…

  1. November 22, 2013 8:18 am

    Hi Nate,

    I really like your blog and I suffer from the same problem you do. I haven’t been posting nearly enough. I’m working hard to fix that.

    Could you tell me what a bird policeman does?


    • Nate permalink*
      November 22, 2013 11:00 am

      It means I’m on the records committee, often referred to sort of pejoratively as the “bird police”

  2. November 22, 2013 10:03 am

    “hella birdy”
    methinks time in San Diego has expanded your vocabulary =)

    • Nate permalink*
      November 22, 2013 11:00 am

      You know it, dude.

  3. November 23, 2013 2:40 pm

    Amazingly, there was a flock of turkeys in the parking lot of my office in RTP just off Airport Bld and Chapel Hill Road the other day!

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