I want to thank each of you who has been watching your feeders since my request for reports of common redpolls a couple of weeks ago. I received more than a dozen photos of suspected redpolls, but all turned out to be house finches, a species often mistaken for redpolls.
I am sure there are some common redpolls out there, though, and the odds that one will show up are increasing.
Diligent and alert feeder watchers have found some exciting birds in the past week in Charlotte anyway. Local birder Lee Weber noticed an odd bird scratching around under one of his sunflower feeders. He quickly identified the adult lark sparrow. This spectacular bird hung around for just a couple of days before moving on. There are three or four previous county records of this species, but it is rare in the Piedmont. Luckily, the bird’s occurrence was documented by photo.
Feeder watchers also added a bird to the Mecklenburg County Official List when an adult male Bullock’s oriole was identified by Noreen George of south Charlotte. I was fortunate to be able to see this bird, and it was quite spectacular. Baltimore orioles are regular but uncommon at feeders in the winter here, but a western Bullock’s oriole is very rare anywhere in the eastern United States. The last I heard, more than 25 birders from all over North Carolina had been able to view that bird.
The occurrence of both of these birds emphasizes a point I made a while back: Birds attract more birds. In both cases the hosts have established very active and diverse feeding operations. The constant feeding activity brings in wandering birds and often the rarities among them.
By now, natural food is getting in short supply, so many species become more dependent on feeders in February and March. Birds are also getting a bit restless and may be moving around more, increasing chances that a hungry traveler may drop in to an active backyard feeding operation.