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Piedmont birding

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Six-Mile Creek Greenway is a favorite spot for seeing birds

By Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff writes on birding in the Piedmont.
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- COURTESY OF JEFF LEWIS
The magnolia warbler is a migrant; it does not nest here

Last Saturday I drove out to Six-Mile Creek Greenway off Marvin Road in south Charlotte to look for fall migrants. A weak cold front had come through the day before, so there was some potential for new birds to have arrived.

This greenway offers a nice mix of habitats with mature lowland hardwoods, streamside vegetation and running water with some standing pools. It is one of my favorite greenway strolls for observing not only birds but also interesting plants and butterflies, and I highly recommend it.

Family groups of Carolina chickadees and tufted titmice were present throughout the stretch, and that’s a good sign for the birder looking for something more interesting. Migrants often associate with these noisy feeding flocks for protection. Immediately a different “chip” note revealed an immature American redstart, or “yellowstart” as these young birds are known in birding lingo.

Woodpeckers are very evident in these woods. There are numerous dead snags and trunks for them to excavate nesting holes and probe for food. I observed several family groups of downy woodpeckers and red-bellied woodpeckers. Other species are present too, including the less common hairy and pileated woodpeckers.

The next feeding flock I found contained an Acadian flycatcher, red-eyed vireo, white-eyed vireo, Northern parula, and a couple of magnolia warblers. The magnolia warbler is undoubtedly a migrant; they don’t nest here. The others nest along the greenway, but I suspect the breeders are long gone, replaced by the migrants passing through. American robins filled the woods at one point, flying back and forth into a large black gum to eat the ripening fruits.

Apparently the cold front was too weak to bring large numbers of migrants. I was hoping for more diversity. This weekend should be a different story, as a stronger front has arrived with markedly cool Canadian air. If similar fronts become regular this fall it will be an exciting season.

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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