I joined eight other birders for a stroll along Four Mile Creek Greenway last Saturday morning. It was an overcast and cool day, but the rain held off until after we were done.
The birds were not as noisy as I had hoped but there was still plenty of activity once we got into the woods just west of Elm Lane. Emerging elm flowers proved to be a great attractant for small groups of American goldfinches and house finches in the treetops. For those not wanting to look upward, Carolina wrens hopped around at eye level just off the boardwalk.
I heard a pine warbler singing so I stopped and played a snippet of pine warbler song back to it. In about three seconds we were dive-bombed by a territorial male in nice yellow plumage. He will make a fine mate this spring. The commotion attracted a small flock of brown-headed nuthatches, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice and ruby-crowned kinglets. We moved on to allow them to calm down.
It wasn’t long before a red-shouldered hawk flew close with a snake dangling from its talons. A few loud calls later a second hawk came flying in to share in the prize. Surely this was a mated pair. There are usually two or three pairs along this stretch of greenway.
A great blue heron was a flyover, and while we watched a red-tailed hawk soared into view. Both turkey and black vultures perched in some dead trees, allowing for a nice comparison of our two local vulture species.
At the cattail marsh it was sparrow lesson time. Three common species of sparrow foraged on last year’s matted marsh growth; song, swamp, and white-throated sparrows; allowing for close views for anyone into sparrows.
Four Mile Creek is a good site to look for winter wrens. Casual birders are not often familiar with this species that likes lowland woods with lots of downed timber. I tried playing a bit of the wren’s alarm call and immediately a tiny brown puffball of a bird popped up for a closer look.
The whole group got to see it well. As I have said before, if I had to name a cute bird, this species would be it.
Four Mile Creek Greenway connects to Lower McAlpine Greenway and McMullen Creek Greenway in south Charlotte. A walk along any of these greenways should produce the same birds, maybe more.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.