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Bird migration and breeding brings lots of activity in Charlotte

Last Saturday I joined 19 other local birders for a morning field trip at Col. Francis Beatty Park in Matthews. The park offers wooded trails, open fields and a lake that usually holds something interesting. It was a beautiful day with plenty of bird activity, including many new spring arrivals.

We began at the lake at the end of the entrance road. A male greater scaup floated in the middle of the lake while a spotted sandpiper teetered on a fallen tree trunk at the water’s edge. Tree swallows, barn swallows and chimney swifts circled overhead. They were joined by soaring red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks.

An Eastern kingbird called from the tops of the trees while a pair of white-eyed vireos sang and foraged in the low thickets. Blue-gray gnatcatchers fussed through the trees and American goldfinches and chipping sparrows announced their presence, too.

Into the woods, a hermit thrush ran along the ground turning over leaves in a search for active invertebrates. A black-and-white warbler sang nearby but abruptly stopped, escaping visual detection. Maybe it had seen the circling sharp-shinned hawk before we did. After the predator passed, brown-headed nuthatches, pine warblers, Eastern towhees, ruby-crowned kinglets and yellow-rumped warblers resumed their singing.

A walk through the open fields near the ball fields and playground produced a nice male palm warbler and field sparrows. The broad view of the open sky revealed a passing osprey, turkey vultures and black vultures. A group of double-crested cormorants flew over in V-formation.

Back at the lake shore, a green heron – another new arrival – perched atop a broken-off pine trunk. Eastern phoebes called from several locations. A pair of Northern rough-winged swallows swooped low over the water. A belted kingfisher gave its harsh rattling call.

More than 50 species were tallied by the group, with eight of those being birds that probably would not have been in the area just a week earlier. Every trip into the field for the next month will likely reveal new arrivals of resident breeders and colorful migrants passing through.