As I mentioned last week, I expected the area lakes to freeze up and either drive local waterfowl out of the area or concentrate them in the little bit of open water they could find. Local birders spent most of last weekend checking area lakes and ponds, as well as Lake Norman. Some nice local rarities were found but, as is typical of wildlife on the move, most did not stay around to be enjoyed by other birders.
I checked a few neighborhood ponds on my way up to Lake Norman last Monday. One small pond in Faires Farms had a nice variety of ducks for a pond tucked into a dense neighborhood. A fountain had kept a small area from freezing, and it was jammed with birds. I counted 34 mallards, two Northern shovelers, six ring-necked ducks, four buffleheads, four hooded mergansers and one American black duck. The black duck is an uncommon bird here, so I was glad to tally that one. Also, 19 killdeer were lined up along the water’s edge, and a very cold-looking Eastern phoebe surveyed the ice.
Once I reached the Lake Norman area, I started at Lake Davidson and worked my way around the south end of Lake Norman to the dam, stopping several times along the way. Lake Davidson gave up six red-breasted mergansers and a greater scaup, both nice ducks to find. I counted 10 common loons and a horned grebe at Torrence Chapel Road. Those species are with us every year. Ramsey Creek Park produced the best birds of the day, three common goldeneyes, including two adult males. That species can go undetected in Mecklenburg County for years at a time, so they are always a treat to see here.
As is usually the case with lots of displaced and wandering birds, all the ducks were very flighty, especially at Lake Norman. Many of the ducks had been forced onto the large open reservoir by the frigid cold and were understandably uneasy. Even distant boats were enough to get them up off the water and moving on.
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I do want to take time to thank everyone for sending photos of your feeder birds during the cold snap. It is evident orioles are very common this year, and there are at least seven hummingbirds in the area. All survived, as far as I know.
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