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Shoreline at dusk reveals plenty of birding action in Mint Hill

Osprey, photo by Phil Fowler
Osprey, photo by Phil Fowler

I took advantage of some cooler evening temperatures last Tuesday to visit a relatively small pond in Mint Hill to get in some late-day birding. The pond has been slowly draining through the summer, producing some exposed mud shoreline and extensive shallows where fish can be easily seen.

I have seen osprey there several times this summer and a few weeks ago actually saw a family group of three birds. I cannot imagine where an osprey nest may be in that area but it looks like a family was raised nearby.

I guess the easy access to bass and bluegills attracted a mated pair. On that day a lone bird, apparently a juvenile was perched on the favorite dead pine along the shore. Osprey nests are a familiar sight in the vicinity of our large reservoirs but not in the southeastern and eastern parts of Mecklenburg County. If anyone knows of a nest in that part of the county I am interested in knowing about it.

While I watched, a flock of 41 mallards flew in and started to dabble in the shallows. One duck stood out from the others owing to its much smaller size. I put it in my scope and found it was a juvenile wood duck. Apparently it had taken up with the mallards, at least for the evening.

A juvenile great blue heron flew in and landed in the aquatic vegetation not too far from me. Three killdeer foraged on the exposed mud across the way. I was hoping a few more shorebirds would have dropped in for an evening meal but none showed up.

A barred owl hooted several times; not the single drawn out hoot but the whole eight syllable call “who cooks for you, who cooks for you?” He quieted down after a while but a flock of blue jays kept up a fuss from the direction the hoots came from. I am sure they were trying their best to make that owl’s life miserable.

At dusk a dozen or so chimney swifts appeared and skimmed the water as they drank on the wing. Just as suddenly as they appeared they disappeared. Some mourning doves and American goldfinches flew over in the fading light, identified only by dove’s distinct shape and the goldfinch’s sweet rolling flight song.

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