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Birdsongs are telling us spring is here

I have been resting up for the last two months from a strenuous Christmas Count season and the Carolina Bird Club meeting in late January. I am preparing for what I hope will be a busy and exciting spring migration. I haven’t spent entire days in the field of late, but last Monday I took advantage of warm temperatures to do a little walking. I checked the ponds, fields and woodlands of Ezell Farm, a county-owned property off Mintwood Drive in Mint Hill.

Birds were in fine song as soon as I arrived. Eastern meadowlarks gave their pleasing, undulating songs from the bare treetops. The song of the Eastern meadowlark is my favorite among the blackbird clan. That’s right, meadowlarks are blackbirds.

Northern cardinals, song sparrows, Eastern bluebirds, Carolina wrens, field sparrows and brown thrashers all joined in to make a fine chorus of the area’s breeding birds. Even some winter residents who will be leaving soon were tuning up their voices for when they arrive on their nesting grounds. Fox sparrows sang from the pinewoods. A ruby-crowned kinglet sang vigorously but quietly from a cedar tree. A swamp sparrow gave its monotonous trill from some pond-side cattails, while dark-eyed juncos trilled their similar songs from the field edges.

Deeper into the woods, brown-headed nuthatches quarreled back and forth over the best dead pine trunk to start excavating for a nest cavity. The dry chip calls from pine warblers high in the pines occasionally were interrupted by the full musical trill of the adult males.

Eight wild mallards and three female hooded mergansers nervously swam toward the center of the old cow pond as I approached. How did I know they were wild mallards? They spooked and took flight before I got within 100 yards. Quite a difference from the mallards at Freedom Park. The mergansers simply stayed motionless and hugged the far bank.

We will still have some cooler-than-normal days, but spring is in full swing as far as the birds are concerned. I have already seen a newly fledged house finch and observed mourning doves carrying nesting material.

Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com