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Exciting species wing their way into local scene

Pileated woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker Phil Fowler.

I birded Six-mile Greenway off Marvin Road last Saturday morning and it was immediately evident there had been a large movement of birds into our area overnight. The trees around the parking lot were full of winter residents, and there was a constant stream of fly-overs on that brisk, clear morning.

I got off to a great start with a calling Virginia rail in the wetland across from the greenway entrance. That’s a great bird to get anytime in Mecklenburg County. They pass through annually but are secretive and usually silent unless roused by a recording of their calls. Several local birders were able to locate it later. A dead tree on the edge of the marsh hosted an adult red-headed woodpecker, another nice bird to see anytime.

Back on the greenway, the treetops were full of yellow-rumped warblers, ruby-crowned kinglets, and golden-crowned kinglets. Lower down, white-throated sparrows and song sparrows filled every thicket. Various woodpeckers called and flew through the forest frequently. A pair of pileated woodpeckers put on a spectacular show at close range, easily the highlight of the greenway stroll.

Hermit thrush’s churck calls were abundant, and a few birds sat up nicely on some exposed limbs. It was clear dark-eyed juncos had arrived overnight as there were several small flocks along the pathway. They flushed upon approach giving their characteristic twittering calls. A winter wren, another recent arrival gave its squeaky chimp chimp call from some downed timber.

Among the flight calls of American goldfinches overhead I was able to pick out a single pine siskin, a species which is predicted to be in short supply this winter. Flocks of American robins and common grackles moved overhead as well; just a few cedar waxwings did the same, giving their high-pitched wheezy calls. A lone, unidentified duck swiftly passed overhead too.

The numerous feeding groups of Carolina chickadees and tufted titmice didn’t hold anything unusual but I suspect an undetected blue-headed vireo or black and white warbler was watching us at some point.

The abundance of small land birds and the Virginia rail more than made up for that miss however. It really was by far the birdiest morning I had experienced in a while.

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

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