I drove down to Rivergate last Monday to check out a fairly new addition to the county’s greenway system, the Walker Branch Greenway.
It’s a short walk, less than a half mile along a wide, well maintained paved trail, but there is some diversity of habitat that can make for a nice species list on a good day. It was my first visit to that greenway and I was glad I made the drive down South Tryon toward Lake Wylie.
I accessed the greenway next to the Home Depot on Rivergate Parkway. There is a retention pond at the access that, in addition to the ever-present mallards and Canada geese, held a lone killdeer and a single foraging Northern rough-winged swallow. A few American robins foraged on the muddy edges, gathering large balls of mud to mold the foundations of their nests. There is a lot of exposed mud right now, so in a few weeks it could be very attractive to migrant shorebirds if dry conditions continue.
Adjacent to the pond was a small stand of cattails that produced singing common yellowthroat, palm warbler, white-eyed vireo and swamp sparrow. Blue-gray gnatcatchers called from the willows; I’m not sure their nasal complaining sounds qualify as a song or not. A pair of red-winged blackbirds were hanging around; they love to build their nests in cattails so I suspect that was their motive. The males sing an unmusical gurgling konk-garee that I find oddly pleasing, as many other birders do.
Into the woods I went and immediately had one singing Northern parula warbler mingled in with the many singing yellow-rumped warblers. That’s four species of warblers so far. The rest of the species I was able to identify were fairly commonplace: American robins, brown thrasher, American goldfinches, white-throated sparrows, Carolina chickadees and ruby-crowned kinglets. All were in fine voice as their beautiful noise cascaded down from the canopy.
I was a bit surprised to see a single dark-eyed junco along the side of the trail. Most individuals of that species seem to have moved on out already. There are stragglers every year, though.
I finished with 38 species after about 45 minutes of birding. If you live down toward Rivergate or beyond, check out this pleasant walk this spring.
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