Last week I walked a brand new section of Toby Creek Greenway that runs from Chancellor Park Drive to Rocky River Road in the University area. The greenway is elevated over a wet woodland at the start then levels off when drier ground is reached. There are lots of tall and mature sycamores, cottonwoods, and black walnut; all species characteristic floodplain creek side vegetation. It’s a short and easy walk to the end and back.
I parked at the Lowe’s Home Improvement on Chancellor Park and accessed the trail from there. At first there was little more than the expected white-throated sparrow flocks in the low thickets but it wasn’t too long before the birds became more interesting.
A winter wren, a bit late in departing for breeding grounds in the mountains, scolded from a brush pile. A rapid, rolling series of notes interspersed with alarm chips turned came from an agitated orange-crowned warbler. I soon learned the source of his displeasure when another male started singing close by.
Orange-crowneds do not establish territories in our area but they do start getting feisty as they move northward. I saw another later on in the walk. Three birds of that species is a good count anytime in Mecklenburg County.
I stopped at a likely looking location and made some noises to draw out curious birds that maybe were skulking in the brush. I was instantly rewarded with chipping sparrows, field sparrows, white-throated sparrows, blue-gray gnatcatchers, hermit thrush, a male and female pine warbler, three palm warblers in fine spring plumage, and a resplendent male yellow-rumped warbler already in high breeding garb. Yellow-rumpeds are with us all winter in dull plumage but the males become quite attractive before they depart by the end of April.
The palm warblers are not shabby dressers either. Our winter birds are of the duller western subspecies but spring birds generally are of the more brightly colored eastern subspecies.
In a little more than an hour of birding and a hike of a little more than a mile I tallied 34 species. I expect the combination of woodlands with shrubby understory and open space will attract a wide diversity of species through the spring and summer. It may be especially good during the spring movement and I plan to check it out again in a couple of weeks.
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