McAlpine Park, and its adjoining greenway, is one of my favorite birding locales so I decided to take a stroll there last Sunday to see what was moving through. I started out off from the Monroe Road access at the park. The park didn’t turn out to be particularly birdy, in fact it was unexpectedly quiet, but there was still some nice stuff to look at.
A flock of 13 killdeer loafed in the clearing between the bridge over the creek and the lake. A rough, loud squawk from one of the mid-sized maples around the lake came from a great blue heron, probably irritated at the numerous walkers interrupting the fishing.
The beaver pond produced other waders as usual: a great egret that has become a fixture there, and a green heron. A family of four Eastern phoebes were still sticking together foraging low in the ankle-deep scrub.
A bright yellow warbler bopping around at the field edge turned out to be a nice immature yellow warbler, the only passerine migrant to be seen that day. I missed seeing the yellow warblers when they came through in the spring so I was glad to see one now.
Next, I drove to the parking lot on Old Bell Lane and walked the greenway from there to Providence Road. This area has always produced soaring birds and it did not do too badly this day. A couple of red-tailed hawks were the first to show followed by a group of turkey vultures. A lone black vulture came gliding in to join them, giving a nice study on the differences between the species. Black vultures have an odd shape; almost no tail and very broad wings with pale patches on the wings’ undersides. Turkey vultures have much longer wings, longer tails, and soar with very little flapping, rocking back and forth in the breeze.
An immature red-shouldered hawk crossed over and disappeared into the woods. Later it would reveal its continued presence by constantly screaming at something unseen by me. Maybe it was me. Finally a broad-winged hawk flew out, circled once, then disappeared as well. I’m always glad to see a broad-winged hawk in Mecklenburg County. In a few weeks there will be potential to see many broad-wingeds as they move south in great numbers for their wintering grounds in the tropics.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.