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Piedmont birding

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Harsh northern conditions send birds our way

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

Each year we can count on certain species of waterfowl coming into our area to spend the winter. There are some species, however, that may not be frequent visitors, and some may be totally absent. Typically these species are more “northern” waterfowl. That is, they tend to winter farther north than the southern Piedmont. Harsh conditions in the middle Atlantic and Northeast freeze the fresh water in those areas and drive larger and more diverse groups of ducks this way.

I wrote earlier about increased reports of common mergansers. Since then, the weather has worsened and some really interesting waterfowl are now in the area.

I have seen a handful of common goldeneye in Mecklenburg County over the years, but this year has brought more reports of this species than any that I can remember. Right now females may be seen at Radbourne Lake and Francis Beatty Park. I am sure there are others elsewhere.

Redhead is another species that has moved into the area in large numbers. Whereas goldeneye tend to occur as single birds, redheads form flocks. They are handsome, with males having a completely rusty head, black upper breast and gray body. Flocks of up to 35 have been reported in the county. Check them carefully, though; the similar and just-as-interesting canvasback may be what you are seeing.

Cold weather brings greater scaup into the area, and there have been reports of this species as well. There have not been any recent reports of scoters. There are three species: black, surf, and white-winged. I am sure there are some of those out there, too.

If you have access to a medium-size to large pond or lake, check it out for some newly arrived ducks. Try to snap a photo and send it to me if you see something unfamiliar. Better yet, consult a field guide and tell me which ducks you have identified. Many will be females or immature birds, so check all plumage depicted in your guide or online. I am betting I’ll get some interesting shots.

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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