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Piedmont birding


My rut ends at Little Sugar Creek Greenway

By Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff writes on birding in the Piedmont.

Like most birders, I sometimes get in a rut from concentrating my field time to a few established hotspots.

When I noticed a stretch of Little Sugar Creek Greenway as I was driving through Myers Park recently, I vowed to check it out.

I made it out there, between Hillside and Lynnwood avenues, last Monday. It’s a short stretch, only a couple of hundred yards long, but there is a series of retention ponds with lush aquatic plants and lots of weedy growth on the banks.

As soon as I started walking, a pair of Eastern phoebes zipped by, one being chased by the other. An Eastern wood-pewee, another flycatcher, made acrobatic sallies from its lookout perch. A magnolia warbler in fine fall plumage flew in close and gave me point-blank looks. A chestnut-sided warbler was not so bold, choosing to stay higher in a hackberry tree.

A raucous, rough call from a dead treetop revealed a nice adult red-headed woodpecker. An immature bird without the red head perched quietly nearby. Northern cardinals and song sparrows picked something delicious out of the exposed mud of the ponds. A trio of American goldfinches, their golden plumage of summer long gone, picked seeds from some aster flower heads.

Small feeding flocks are increasingly made up of winter resident species, as those species that are only passing through begin to dwindle. Winter residents found that day included a ruby-crowned kinglet, white-throated sparrows, and an inquisitive house wren.

The unique habitat in the unusual location could attract something locally or seasonally rare. It looks to me like a spot where an odd warbler might try to make a go of it through the winter. Then this location will get added to my list of local hotspots.

Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont:
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