Last Saturday I met with 11 local birders to walk a portion of the McDowell Creek Greenway in Huntersville. It was a cold, clear morning, and the birds were pretty active right from the start.
Starting at Birkdale Village, we immediately encountered small groups of expected sparrows – white-throated, field, song, and swamp – along the brushy margins of the paved path. Several winter wrens let us know by their alarm notes that they had seen us, but they did not allow us the same opportunity.
There is an interesting pond just a few hundred yards from our starting point. A great blue heron was sunning itself in the short grass across the pond from the greenway trail. A few pairs of mallards fed in the shallow, tipping up to reach their submerged food. A belted kingfisher perched on a wooden guardrail, intently watching for movement of some aquatic prey. A brown thrasher whistled and chucked in alarm, though it was on the other side of the pond.
A group of young pine trees produced singing pine warblers and a different warbler, a nondescript olive-yellow bird with no wing bars and some yellow under the tail. It was an orange-crowned warbler, a species uncommon at any season in this area.
The birders also got good comparison looks at both ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets. Among the bands of sparrows feeding the short grass adjacent to the path was a single hermit thrush gleaning seeds from the pavement.
A section of mature hardwoods produced a red-bellied, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, as well as white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatches. We looked for a brown creeper, but none were to be found this day.
We retraced our steps back to the parking lot and were able to add a few additional species we had missed before. A pair of red-shouldered hawks perched conveniently near the path for nice study views. An interesting call from some brush was traced to a common yellowthroat, a species rare in winter here.
Thirty-nine species were tallied in about three hours on this greenway. It’s an easy walk and the birds are generally close to the trail. I recommend you try it out.
Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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