Last week I took some time to work on one of my Breeding Bird Atlas blocks in south Charlotte. I wanted to check an interesting wetland nestled between the Providence Plantation and Hembstead neighborhoods near the Arboretum. This wetland offers totally different habitat from that of the largely residential surrounding areas. It’s “off trail” birding, meaning there is no greenway or well-traveled trail. I like a little bush-whacking now and then, so I pulled on some long pants despite the warm, muggy morning; slipped on some wading boots; and set out to see what is living in that marsh.
Immediately a recently fledged red-tailed hawk starting screaming at me and never did stop the whole time I was in the area. A great blue heron flew overhead, heading for a small colony high in some ash trees. Soon I could hear the rough croaking of begging young herons.
A pair of white-eyed vireos got upset with me when I ventured too near their nest site. One bird scolded me while holding a dragonfly in its bill. An Eastern phoebe kept busy feeding three young that had staked out some perches on some of the dead trees. At least two male indigo buntings sang from some of the same dead trees.
There are lots of old woodpecker holes in these dead trees, and Eastern bluebirds, great-crested flycatchers, tufted titmice and Carolina chickadees make claims to them. One larger hole had a sizable rat snake draped around it. Rat snakes are major predators of nesting birds, but I don’t know whether it had found an occupied hole.
The marsh is surrounded by low woodland that is very wet. Acadian flycatchers lurk in the shady understory, giving their explosive peet-suh calls. A northern parula, a type of warbler, sang from the treetops. The parula is a nice bird to find as a potential nester there. As I was walking out, some common grackles started up a commotion and a young barred owl flushed out of a nearby tree.
The day reminded me of how even relatively small pockets of unique and different habitat can greatly increase the biodiversity of a given area.
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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