Another exciting rare bird was found in the Lake Norman area last week; a species that has never before been confirmed as occurring in the state.
A violet-green swallow was identified among a large flock of mixed swallow species at Lake Davidson Nature Preserve. The bird was seen in the evening the day after discovery so I went to try my luck on Saturday morning.
Other local birders were there too, and three birders from the Triangle and the Rocky Mount area made a stop on their way to the mountains. Two hours of watching swallows glide over the water proved fruitless so the seven birders watching assumed the bird had moved on.
Not so. The bird was reported late morning and again mid-afternoon.
I made the drive back up to Davidson Sunday late afternoon, arriving around 6 with the intention of staying until dark. I was hopeful but I had the feeling that the swallow had hung around long enough and had continued on its migration
Violet-green swallows are native to the western United States and only very rarely stray east. They are superficially similar to our eastern tree swallows, but both sexes exhibit a much more extensive white rump than other swallows.
I’ll bet I looked at the back end of every swallow skimming over that lake 50 times that evening. There were good numbers of tree, barn, and Northern rough-winged swallows there but again I came up empty. Afterward I officially suspended my campaign to find that little bird at a big lake; unless of course it turns up again.
But it was good birding despite the disappointment. I recorded a bank swallow, a species seldom reported from Mecklenburg County; and up to three Caspian terns were seen loafing on some exposed rocks.
A common loon in breeding plumage is still hanging out, and some nice migrant warblers were present in the surrounding woods. That’s the nature of chasing rare birds; sometimes they move on before you can get there. It really is a “right place, right time” dynamic. But there are always interesting birds to see and every once in a while rarity chases turn up birds that are almost as good even if the target bird doesn’t show.
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