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Wetland near Concord Mills offers awesome birding

Northern Pintail
Northern Pintail Phil Fowler

I joined some members of Mecklenburg Audubon last Saturday as they did some birding in the Concord Mills area of Cabarrus County. The main goal was to check area wetlands and ponds for arriving waterfowl.

The first stop proved to be the nest of the day. There is a vast wetland behind the HH Gregg store on Speedway Boulevard. This spot has proven through the years to be a waterfowl magnet. There is something out there virtually every month of the year. Adding to the site’s attractiveness to birders is the ease of access and relative close proximity of the birds. Great views can be gotten with only a set of decent binoculars; a spotting scope can make for some killer looks. It is also good that the ducks are not skittish at this site.

Ironically the best bird of the day was heard and then seen as I walked up to join the group there. A blue-gray gnatcatcher, a rare bird in the piedmont by late November, was foraging in the brush right by the parking area. Attention to that bird was brief as it became evident very quickly that there were lots of ducks in the marsh.

Leisurely, beautiful looks were gotten of 29 northern pintail, a big number of this locally uncommon duck. Other waterfowl included 4 gadwall, 12 Northern shoveler, 15 mallard, 4 green-winged teal, 5 hooded merganser, and two pied-billed grebe.

The sun angle was perfect for exposing the colors on the male ducks. The green-winged teal drakes showed off the bright green wing patches and eye stripe. A mute swan has been present at the site for years; this is almost certainly an escaped ornamental bird instead of a wild one.

Non-duck birds included a hunting belted kingfisher, a statuesque great-blue heron, and a few red-winged blackbirds. A bonus siting was two river otters frolicking in the water just below our vantage point.

We then headed across Speedway Boulevard to the pond in front of the mall to add bufflehead, ruddy duck, American coot, and ring-necked ducks.

If you want to get easy looks at area waterfowl I highly recommend these two areas. They always produce and can provide some nice photographic opportunities with the right equipment.

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