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Rain is no match for youthful, gung-ho birders

Magnolia warbler
Magnolia warbler John Ennis.

If you remember last Saturday, the weather was pretty lousy for outside activity, or so I thought. I was scheduled to lead a bird walk at Four Mile Creek Greenway.

To my surprise four people showed up, two very enthusiastic middle school aged boys each accompanied by a supportive parent. Despite the steady rain and my bargaining attempts to reschedule, the group was gung-ho to do some birding. I really thought we would be lucky to see anything at all, but I am not going to be out-weathered by anybody and besides, I remember how I was at their age. There were birds to see and rain was nothing more than a minor inconvenience. So off we went, and I am glad we did.

I soon realized that there were small feeding flocks of migrants every couple of hundred yards along the trail. The first stop yielded a just-arrived white-throated sparrow, brown thrasher, and a very inquisitive magnolia warbler that swooped right in for a closer look. That was a life-bird for everyone; a pretty good start.

A black-and-white warbler, palm warbler, and two gaudy American redstarts awaited us within the next flock. I walked right by a dozing barred owl, unfazed by us or the rain. As is often the case in birding groups, the last person in line spotted it.

At the large cattail marsh, a flock of four indigo buntings, a couple of swamp sparrows, a common yellowthroat, and another brown thrasher posed nicely for our party. We took a short break from birding to examine some green treefrogs and cattail caterpillars.

Back into the woods, a couple of Eastern wood-pewees called to each other. The birds seemed really agitated at the next spot and soon we knew the reason why; a large immature Cooper’s hawk launched off its perch and flew right over.

Woodpeckers put on a good show with multiple individuals of red-bellied and downy seen, with an individual hairy woodpecker and Northern flicker to boot. In all we ended up with about 34 species on a day when I thought we would be lucky to identify a quarter of that number.

And I was reminded that birds don’t come in out of the rain. And adverse conditions are no match for youthful enthusiasm.

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