I saw my first common nighthawk migrant at 7:45 pm. Sept. 1. As usual, it was flying southeast, the direction they always seem to be heading this time of year. I only saw one but there were probably some others around.
The ruby-throated hummingbird changeover continues at my porch feeder. For a week or longer a female was the dominant bird, perching on a favorite branch and leaving it only to drink or to chase off two other hummers. She has since disappeared, and her adversaries too; to be replaced by an adult male who seems to have it all to himself for now. He will likely move on soon and another bird will stake its claim for a few days. So goes the hummingbird parade of late summer and early fall.
A sizable flock of common grackles is roosting in some trees along Sardis Road North and Crown Point. I see them leaving around 6:45 in the morning heading toward Union County to forage in the agricultural fields, and returning in the evenings. I always wonder why they don’t find a suitable roost closer to where they work. I guess grackles are the commuters of the local avian world.
The formation of huge blackbird flocks is a sure sign summer is on the wane. They will stay flocked up all winter. The size of our local flocks are nothing compared to the ones that form down east. Those can contain hundreds of thousands of birds of several blackbird species.
I have also been noticing an uptick in the numbers of belted kingfishers lately. It seems every spot along the Catawba River, every farm pond, or retention pond has a kingfisher now. Often there are two birds quarreling back and forth with their raucous rattling. Kingfishers are with us year-round but I suspect the breeding birds move out and northern birds take their places for the winter months. The turnover is taking place right now.
Local birders are eagerly awaiting the first strong cool front of September. The cool northwest winds from such fronts are loaded with southbound migrants. A few warblers are here now but there will be a noticeable increase in chips and chirps when those fronts arrive.
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