I made a short chase to McAlpine Creek Park in east Charlotte last Tuesday evening to find a pair of horned grebes that had been reported the previous day. I thought it would be a long shot for the birds to still be present, and I was correct. That species can be found in winter and visits the larger reservoirs in the area but is rare on smaller ponds. It’s likely the birds were just taking a brief break during their move northward.
Despite not finding my targets birds, I was rewarded with a very pleasant evening stroll along some of the trails. Barn swallows, Northern rough-winged swallows and a lone tree swallow skimmed over the water’s surface at the main pond. The five pied-billed grebes that spent the winter there were still present. At the adjacent beaver pond, a belted kingfisher gulped down a sizeable fish while an envious great egret watched. It appears a Canada goose has a nest on the beaver lodge again this year.
I walked to the backside of the beaver pond, following the trail away from the main pond with the beaver pond on my left. A few swamp sparrows sang their bubbly songs while a threesome of red-bellied woodpeckers scuffled to sort out some disagreement. Blue-gray gnatcatchers, just arrived this week, fussed constantly along the trail edge.
Just past this spot, I was surprised to hear some abrupt alarm calls followed by a loud, ringing song from an area of small creeks. It was a Louisiana waterthrush, again just arrived. I have not seen this species at McAlpine Creek Park before, but the habitat is appropriate. I hope it can attract a mate and nest this year. I’ll be coming back to check on that.
I found a large mass of sticks in a tree fork in the area where the trail rises up into some oak woods. Closer inspection revealed a red-shouldered hawk peering over the edge right back at me. Its mate sat uncharacteristically silent in a nearby tree.
Nesting will increase as migrant breeders arrive in the coming days and weeks. I look forward to writing about some species I haven’t been able to mention for the last six months or so.
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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