Judging by the reader response I received last weekend, my prediction of the bitter cold being a driver of birds to area feeders was dead on. By Saturday afternoon my phone was blowing up with photos of unusual stuff coming out of the woods. The flood continued unabated through the early part of the week.
By far, most of the photos I received were of Baltimore orioles in various plumages. I never get tired of looking at oriole shots. There is so much variation from individual to individual, except for the standard plumaged adult males. No matter the age or gender, they are all beautiful birds. There is also the possibility that a rare oriole species will show up and get photographed too. That happened just a few years ago when a first state record hooded oriole showed up in southeast Mecklenburg.
Within a 48-hour period I also received new reports from at least three folks who are hosting hummingbirds. Looking at the photos, it is evident that ruby-throated and rufous-type hummers are both present right now. Add these two species to the calliope hummingbird present for some weeks near Matthews, and it seems there are three hummingbird species in Mecklenburg County right now. I knew there had to be some hummers lurking out there, buzzing under the radar. With temperatures like these, though, stealthy gives way to bold action.
Keep the photos coming; there are certainly more rarities out there. I expect there are some nice warblers and sparrows patronizing, too. They can be a bit more challenging for casual birders to identify, but if you see anything that appears a bit unusual, try to get a shot.
As the cold has worn on and many area ponds have completely frozen over, area waterfowl will be desperately looking for open water. Birds that have been here awhile may just move a bit farther south, but we will likely see an influx of northern ducks into the area. Deeper lakes and ponds that will only partially freeze have the potential to have crowds of ducks crammed into a small open area – the duck-in-a barrel analogy.
I will be out a lot of the weekend, not only searching for open water in smaller lakes but also checking vantage points at the larger reservoirs. Hopefully, I will be able to report some good ducks next week.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.