I took advantage of some nice weather last Saturday to do some birding at the Kirk Farm Fields boardwalk the near U.S. 29 and Mallard Creek Road. From the road all you can see is a large soccer field but if you pull into the parking lot you will see the boardwalk bridge that crosses Mallard Creek.
This spur trail off the adjacent greenway carries you over some grassy wetlands with regenerating hardwoods and a cattail marsh. It is a spot that has attracted some interesting marsh birds and can be a good magnet for migrating land birds.
Immediately after crossing the bridge it became evident there would be a nice mix of incoming and outgoing birds. Immediately I heard the sharp, thin chip of a warbler.
After a minute or two of scanning the mid-canopy I was able to find the source, a Cape May warbler. It was soon joined by a chestnut-sided warbler and a Northern parula warbler. The warblers were outgoing species, species that will not stay through the winter.
Incoming species, those that will stay the winter, included a very vocal yellow-bellied sapsucker, two inquisitive red-breasted nuthatches, a female golden-crowned kinglet, and white-throated sparrows.
All of the birds were moving along together in a loose flock, sometimes foraging within a few feet of the boardwalk. Joining them were a couple of year-round Carolina wrens, Carolina chickadees, and tufted titmice. A half blue, half brown out going indigo bunting flew in to investigate. All indigo buntings eventually molt into brown plumage in the fall.
The more open cattail marsh was, in comparison, less birdy. An Eastern phoebe perched on a cattail stem and an incoming swamp sparrow called from the thick grass. I played taped calls of several rail species and scanned for perhaps an American bittern but nothing materialized.
The boardwalk extends for a few hundred yards to a dead end. On the way back through the already-birded habitats I was able to add a red-eyed vireo and Eastern wood-pewee to the list of outgoing birds.
So no real rarities that day but a fast paced hour of migrant and winter birding was good compensation. I suspect the next cool front will bring in large numbers of sparrows to sort through
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com