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August 29, 2008

Rediscovering beauty of common species

On Aug. 18, I had the pleasure of taking a visiting birder, Nicholas Bishop of Sydney, Australia, around McAlpine Creek Park for some local birding.

On Aug. 18, I had the pleasure of taking a visiting birder, Nicholas Bishop of Sydney, Australia, around McAlpine Creek Park for some local birding.

Visiting birders usually have a challenging “wish list” so I was a bit apprehensive when I agreed to walk him around. We met at 8 a.m. and I soon felt better about our chances when I learned he would be thrilled to see some relatively common species.

We immediately found one of his top priority birds; the eastern bluebird. A walk around the beaver pond produced ruby-throated hummingbirds, belted kingfisher, Cooper's hawk, American goldfinch and great-crested flycatcher.

Later, we spent some time watching the extensive feeding station at Squirrel Lake Park in Matthews where white-breasted nuthatches, brown-headed nuthatches, Carolina chickadees, house finches, American goldfinches and chipping sparrows provided nonstop activity.

Active Piedmont birders who chase rarities might pass many of these species by with barely a nod, but Nick studied each one carefully, commenting on plumage characteristics that I had not taken the time to notice in years.

And he was right, each one was beautiful. I thought back to the first time I had ever seen an eastern bluebird or American goldfinch and remembered being just as thrilled. Thanks Nick, for reminding me why I do this.

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