Last Sunday I led a group of enthusiastic birders along a stretch of the Four-Mile Creek Greenway. The afternoon was unseasonably warm and many birds had fallen silent for the day but sharp eyes in the group spotted plenty of interesting stuff.
I stopped the group at a weedy patch to see what might be hunkered down silent and out of sight. I made a few scolding sounds mimicking a scolding wren and immediately a tufted titmouse, a couple of field sparrows, Carolina wren, Northern cardinal, and many white-throated sparrows flew in to take a look.
We moved on to a more wooded area where a mid-sized woodpecker climbed a large oak to a spot of horizontal rows of small drilled holes. It was a yellow-bellied sapsucker stopping by to sip a sweet drink of oozing sap. Just a few trees away another mid-sized woodpecker foraged on a dead stub.
The plumage was almost identical to a downy woodpecker but this bird was 30 percent larger. It was a hairy woodpecker, a more skittish species than the downy and one that can be difficult to get close to. Everyone got a good look at this one however. A lone golden-crowned kinglet flitted in and out of a mass of dead leaves gleaning small spiders from the crevices. The gold crown on this species can be hard to see but this cooperative bird showed nicely.
A red-shouldered hawk called loudly and often, flying from perch to perch and occasionally performing courtship display for an unseen female. The suitor would fold his wings and dive, and even rolled over to complete a complete 360 degree turn. We were impressed even if the female wasn’t.
A stop at a large cattail marsh produced a large mixed flock of white-throated, song, and swamp sparrows. A larger, darker bird flushed with the sparrows, a lone female red-winged blackbird. A tiny puff-ball of a bird scolded the group from a brush pile near the boardwalk. It was a winter wren that grew more irate the longer we watched it.
A barred owl hooted twice from the deeper woods, giving the complete “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” call. Barred owls will be getting more vocal even during the daytime as they start to renew their pair bonds for the approaching nesting season.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.