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Brightly plumaged migrants rest up at Latta Park in Dilworth

Cape May warblers are usually well up in the canopy, but one foraged at eye level during this visit.
Cape May warblers are usually well up in the canopy, but one foraged at eye level during this visit.

We have hit the peak for neotropical migrants passing through our area. This week area birders will be scouring the best-known spots for warblers, sparrows, tanagers and grosbeaks. For almost every in-the-know birder, this means at least one stop at Latta Park in Dilworth. This park has long been known as a superb site to catch the brightly plumaged migrants as they rest up during their northbound journey.

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Taylor Piephoff Observer file photo

I stopped in April 22 in the mid-afternoon – not the optimum time of day, but there is always something to see there. Morning is the very best when the migrants are in full voice. Singing slacks off in the afternoon, so one must search a little harder to find what’s hunkered down. When birding Latta Park, always check along the stream and adjacent shrubs and thickets first. That’s how I always start.

Yellow-rumped warblers are pouring into our area now, so I had to sort through those guys to find the less common species. A nice male Cape May warbler foraged at eye level; most times they are well up in the canopy. A male black-throated blue warbler gave his buzzy song, then popped into view. An agitated chattering gave away a Baltimore oriole, a brilliant orange male, when it finally allowed itself to be seen.

A scarlet tanager sang from somewhere in the park, but I never did see it. A male summer tanager was glimpsed briefly after catching my attention with a dry “picky tuck” call. A wood thrush flushed off the ground in front of me and sought refuge in a tight thicket, but I could still get a good look. Later, I would see a lingering hermit thrush in the same way.

Species also are arriving to breed in the park. Several great-crested flycatchers raised a racket, while a few red-eyed vireos did the same leisurely from the treetops. Chipping sparrows were very easy to find and see. A gray catbird sang its squeaky song from a low branch.

The resident birds are generally tame. A pair of brown thrashers didn’t mind me at all as they flung loose leaves aside while searching for hidden invertebrates. American robins merely stepped aside to let me pass.

Current weather forecasts call for a sunny week. I expect an explosion of activity both from birds and birders. See you there.

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