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The fields and hedgerows of Clark’s Creek Nature Preserve attract a variety of birds

A marsh wren is a notable find anytime in Mecklenburg County.
A marsh wren is a notable find anytime in Mecklenburg County.

I was part of a group that birded Clark’s Creek Nature Preserve off Hucks Road last Saturday. Clark’s Creek is a fairly new nature preserve but has already gained a reputation as a magnet for locally rare birds.

There is a wide variety of habitats, including a nice pond, but the most striking features are fields with abundant yellow, purple and white asters. A hedgerow lined with cedars, wild cherry and elm bisects the main fields. As far as fields and hedgerows go for attracting birds, this is as good as it gets in our immediate area. The fields are extremely birdy right now, and as a bonus, monarch butterflies are prevalent too as they migrate south.

Many dozens of American goldfinches descended to dried flower heads to gorge on the nutritious seeds while a generous smattering of palm warblers worked over the flimsy stalks of blooming goldenrod for small spiders and other arthropods.

A scolding “chit chit” gave away a marsh wren, a notable find anytime in Mecklenburg County. A few minutes later two very cooperative sedge wrens, another notable species, put on quite a show for the whole group. I think it was the first time I had ever seen both species in a day locally.

The first yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets of the fall season worked the hedgerow trees with the last of the red-eyed vireos. Numerous Eastern phoebes perched on tree limbs in between forays into the grassy growth below. A nice looking blue grosbeak in rich buff fall plumage associated with some duller brown indigo buntings.

Three tree swallows, surely migrants, circled over the pond and adjacent mowed fields while seven Eastern meadowlarks flushed from the grass.

If you visit, you may notice a tall white structure on the left field line. It’s a chimney swift nesting / roosting tower erected in memory of David Wright, a prominent Southern Piedmont birder who passed away a year ago in September. Statistically, David was the most prolific birder in county history, but his true legacy was as a mentor to a generation of area birders. I met David 35 years ago, and over the next couple of decades he taught me how to identify birds, how to find birds, and to appreciate birds. In short, he taught me how to bird. He is so missed by the birding community.

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