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Parade of birds visit these bare limbs

I have written before about the different types of lists birders keep. Birders may pick a large geographical area like a state or county to document their sightings, or it can be a much smaller area. Yard and feeder lists are popular. A favorite park or section of greenway is a common choice. It’s a birding game that anyone can play.

For decades I have kept only three main lists: Life List, North Carolina List and Mecklenburg County List. But earlier this year I noticed the top limb of a large sweet gum tree across the street from my home had died, resulting in a large bare limb being exposed. I soon noticed that the limb had become a popular perch for a wide variety of bird species. So I decided to keep another list: the Dead Limb List.

In March a red-shouldered hawk regularly used it by day to scream that this was his territory. By night a great horned owl would hunt from it, occasionally giving its deep booming hoots. A Cooper’s hawk used it once as a hunting perch. When the fish crows arrived, they would sit on that limb and give their annoying nasal calls almost constantly.

By early April songbirds would compete for singing time and space on it. Northern mockingbirds, brown thrashers, Eastern towhees, Eastern bluebirds, American robins, and European starlings all took their turns. Even a Carolina wren used it; I had not seen a Carolina wren 70 feet off the ground before. A bird would sing for a while, and then another bird would fly up and displace it. I never saw any real conflict; it was as if the birds had signed up for time and knew their time was up.

When the red-winged blackbirds and cedar waxwings passed through, multiple individuals would use it. Lately an American goldfinch has staked a claim, singing its musical complex song.

So far I have identified about 22 species of birds on that one limb. It’s not a big list, and I don’t expect it to grow appreciably. But every time I walk out my front door I glance at that limb and get a few more seconds of purposeful birding in.

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