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Male hooded warbler appears in Matthews

The photo this week is of a hooded warbler by Jeff Lewis.

Last weekend I birded Windsor Park in Matthews just off Northeast Parkway, a small park I had not visited for some years. The main feature is a short greenway that extends from the park through Sycamore Commons Shopping Center.

Near the park the greenway runs past a large pond that has held wintering ducks in past winters. My quest last weekend was for fall migrants however, and I was not disappointed.

The cool temperatures and breezy conditions made it feel more like October, but the birds were pure September. At the pond’s edge, I heard some chirps coming from the woods. I made a few squeaky noises and immediately out popped a splendid male hooded warbler. They can be shy and skulking but this individual was very interested in what I was up to.

There are some birch trees that line the pond. I love a good birch tree for fall birding. The foliage is thin and apparently attracts caterpillars and other insects that migrants find delicious. Just by standing and watching I was able to tally a number of migrant birds.

Two magnolia warblers worked the tips of the flimsy branches while a black and white warbler checked out the peeling bark. Up to three American redstarts caught insects in mid-air as they buzzed though the canopy.

A white-eyed vireo got in on the feast too. This one had dark eyes that means it was an immature bird. It’s larger cousin the red-eyed vireo was present too, in fact two of them.

Two larger, sparrow-like birds briefly flew in; rose-breasted grosbeaks in brown fall plumage that is a far cry from the striking black, white and red from four and half months ago.

A thick clump of berry-laden Virginia creeper vine in the top of a dead sapling attracted seven gray catbirds, two brown thrashers and two Northern mockingbirds. Virginia creeper berries are an important fall food for migrants.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds patronized scattered Japanese honeysuckle blooms. An Eastern wood-pewee flew in, perched atop a dead limb, surveyed the situation, then promptly flew off.

A raucous racket turned out to be two belted kingfishers dueling over who would win claim to the pond for his or her winter fishing water. Finally two common yellowthroats crept through some thick grassy growth, one an extremely dull immature female that had no yellow at all accompanied by a more colorful adult female.

Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.