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Piedmont birding

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Winter storm brings rare birds

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

If you were able to watch your feeders over the course of last week’s winter storm, I am sure you noticed a definite increase in activity. Hopefully you saw some species that you have not noted regularly. I was able to record some unusual species in my backyard and observe some unusual behaviors. I also heard from other folks who had local rarities show up for brief visits, too.

Fox sparrows have a reputation for being “bad weather” feeder birds. They are fairly common winter visitors here, and some of you may have them as regular feeder birds, but many only see them during heavy snow events. In the two years at my current address, I have not seen one at my feeder or in the immediate area. Yet, there one was eating seed I had spread on the icy snow crust.

I was also surprised to see a killdeer slipping across the ice in my backyard as it tried to make its way to the small creek that borders my property. My backyard is not killdeer habitat; they like open space. I am sure this bird was attracted by the sound of the unfrozen running water and needed a drink.

I watched a yellow-rumped warbler exploring the nooks and crannies under my porch roofs, Carolina wren style. Not only did this activity give shelter from the storm, but it afforded some protein in the form of cankerworm moths that had been caught in some of the persistent spider webs. I have seen wrens and Eastern phoebes do this but not yellow-rumped warblers.

Most exciting were the reports of others who hosted some real rarities. I saw photos of a common ground-dove at a feeder in Stanly County and a brilliant adult male painted bunting from a feeder in Mooresville. The dove is a rarity anywhere and anytime in North Carolina. The bunting is a rarity anywhere away from the coast. It is unclear if these birds came into the area with the storm or have been wintering undetected in the area and were pushed to the feeders through necessity in dealing with the snowfall.

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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