Golf courses are great places to bird. They usually have a good diversity of habitats: open country, woods edge, water and expansive views of the sky. I had the opportunity to play a round last week at Charles T. Myers Golf Course off Harrisburg Road. As usual the golf game slowly went south, and my attention turned to the birds.
I have been chasing lots of rarities lately, but on that day, I was looking forward to enjoying and appreciating many of the neotropicals that come into the Carolina Piedmont only during the breeding season. The species we encountered were typical of open land and adjacent edge habitat. Ponds on the course have potential to attract various water fowl and waders.
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At the practice range, a killdeer scurried over the golf-ball-strewn landscape. Barn swallows swarmed around lingering mud puddles, gathering mud and carrying it back to the cart shed to construct their nests. A red-eyed vireo sang tirelessly from one of the mid-sized shade trees around the clubhouse.
Out on the course, a pair of Eastern kingbirds pugnaciously defended territory against all comers, all the while giving their characteristic tinkling scold. A pair of cedar waxwings flew over several times, located by their wheezy flight calls. They were the best birds of the day since they are likely local breeders. Only a few linger over from the winter to nest here.
From the woodlands at the course boundaries, a wood thrush sang its ethereal song. It is one of my favorites, especially when heard right at dusk. A summer tanager perched prominently on a dead snag and exuberantly proclaimed his domain. Both blue grosbeaks and indigo buntings sang from the tops of some pines. A restless orchard oriole flitted nervously from tree to tree alternating between a jumbled musical song and excited chatters. An odd monotonous series of notes let me know a yellow-billed cuckoo was hiding out in the canopy. I got a glimpse as it darted away.
American goldfinches, July and August nesters, chased each other whistling their sweet chic-or-ee. A brown thrasher on several occasions darted out from a thicket to grab a juicy grub from the short-mowed grass.
It is fun to look for and discover rarities, but much of the allure of birding comes from enjoying the common species that make up the Piedmont avifauna and make this region so attractive to birders.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.