Spring migration is drawing to a close now, and in my opinion the show the birds put on has been one of the most unusual in quite a few years.
All in all, the first couple of weeks of the period we consider the peak of migration was fairly lackluster. Oh, the birds came through but the numbers seemed a bit off to me. There were some highlights for sure; a sedge wren I saw is always a good bird for the area, and over 100 bobolinks stayed on at Cowan’s Ford Refuge for a few days.
Mid-April temperatures cooled down from the first part of the month and that may have contributed to a slow-down in the northward push of returning migrants. Remember, cool temperatures usually mean a northerly element to the prevailing winds; conditions not conducive to moving north.
The really big push of ruby-throated hummingbirds seemed to be a few days later this year. I received photos of rose-breasted grosbeaks at feeders from excited readers but even those numbers were a bit down. The more common of the migrants, Northern parulas, American redstarts, and black-throated blue warblers were present in good numbers but the more uncommon species were hard to detect.
But birders know things have a way of evening out. Every year is different. About May 8 through May 16 things made a complete about-face. Some very good numbers of some very good birds began to be reported.
My favorite spring warbler, the magnolia warbler put on a great show at Latta Park with some lists including up to six individuals. A very uncommon species, the Canada warbler, started appearing in reports; again, with multiple individuals reported. One of the most uncommon and hardest to detect, the bay-breasted warbler, was suddenly easy to find at Latta Park.
Other county sites provided some excellent birding too. McDowell Prairie gave up a male dickcissal, and later an extremely locally rare Nelson’s sparrow. Alder flycatcher, a species very difficult to identify, showed up at McDowell and a site in Cabarrus County.
The most tantalizing however was a singing Connecticut warbler that was a one-day wonder. Only one birder saw it and recorded it’s song. I am not sure there is anyone else keeping a county list that includes that species.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.