By Nathan Swick, Wake Audubon Board Member
I led the monthly Wake Audubon field trip to Anderson Point Park, one of Raleigh’s city parks and the one with which Wake Audubon has had a long-standing partnership, last week. A group of a dozen joined me as we strolled through the fields and forests puzzling over myriad sparrows, gaping at gorgeous Eastern Bluebirds singing atop the nest boxes erected by Wake Audubon, and chatting about birds at feeders and what we’ve seen recently. You know, the usual stuff. A Fish Crow honked overhead early on, the first one I’ve seen this year and the first real sign that spring is around the corner in this part of North Carolina.
We followed the path into the woods to the actual “point”, where Crabtree Creek flows into the Neuse River, and came across a beautiful adult Red-headed Woodpecker. Red-heads have grown scarce in the Triangle, especially within the city limits, and you couldn’t really get a nicer bird for a bird walk if you’d ordered it out of a catalog. Everyone got fantastic looks as it vaulted back and forth between a massive sycamore and a broken oak limb. He paid close attention to the tip of the break, and we wondered if he’d cached acorns there.
We saw Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Flickers too, only the Pileated and Hairy away from the woodpecker slam. No one seemed disappointed though. The embodiment of economy of color that is a Red-headed Woodpecker tends to sate just about any would-be bird walker.
A flock of sparrows drew my attention so I lead the group to a little seep where we picked up a super obliging (I’m obliged to use that word in a trip report at least once) Hermit Thrush. When you’re looking to show a group of birders the cool things around them that they might not normally see by themselves, Hermit Thrush is a definite goodie. Not only does it have lots of memorable field marks, both physically and behaviorally, but it’s quiet and easily overlooked. This bird stayed right out in the open where everyone got killer looks. I have to say, as a bird walk leader, I was feeling pretty good about the way things were going.
The resident Loggerhead Shrike was a no-show, and too bad too as I was hoping to pick it up for my Big Year, but the day was a success. Everyone got great looks at the two best birds and I picked up a Fish Crow for the year.
The next bird walk at Anderson Point Park will be held March 12. We hope to see you there!
Via Land for Tomorrow:
ACTION ALERT: Legislators move to take millions from conservation trusts – take action now!
On Thursday, February 3, the North Carolina Senate took its first vote on fast-moving legislation that would gut two conservation trust funds. Senate Bill 13 would take $1.8 million from the Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and $8.5 million from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. This legislation is moving quickly, so write your Representative and Senator today and ask them to oppose Senate Bill 13.
The legislation is part of an effort to shift money from this year’s state budget into the next fiscal year. Legislators are facing a $3.7 billion budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, and are looking for ways to reduce the size of that shortfall.
Taking money from the state’s conservation trust funds is the wrong way to close that gap. These trust funds leverage local dollars, protect farms and create jobs.
Click here to take action now by writing your state legislators. Tell them to protect the state’s conservation trust funds.
By Jeff Beane, Wake Audubon Vice-President.
The Young Naturalists Club enjoyed a successful trip to the Albemarle Peninsula on Saturday, 22 January 2011. This trip featured the wildlife (focusing on birds and mammals), wildlife refuges, and wild lands of the Albemarle Peninsula, and included portions of Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington counties. Trip leaders were Jeff Beane and Ed Corey; Miranda Wood also attended as a female chaperone. Club participants were Matt Burroughs, Matt Daw, Seth Gaffer, Jo Himes, Nate Laughner, and Kristen Shireman.
Our primary destinations were Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. We left Raleigh at just after 8:00 a.m. En route, we stopped at a couple of places along U.S. 64 to look at waterfowl, and were lucky enough to pick out a couple of Ross’s Geese from a mixed flock of mostly Canada Geese and Snow Geese near Plymouth. These were lifers for most of the group, though we were afforded only a fleeting look at them before a Bald Eagle flushed the flock.
The day was cold, windy, and overcast, and temperatures did not make it above freezing all day. We had a snow shower at Alligator River, which became heavy enough at times to hinder our visibility, but we still saw a good variety of birds, most notable of which was a Swainson’s Hawk that passed directly above our heads. We were also able to approach two American Bitterns very closely. We were not, however, able to turn up any of the hoped-for Black Bears, Bobcats, or Red Wolves.
We next headed for the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes, where we had originally planned to spend a good bit of time. However, having heard several reports that the spectacular Snow Goose flocks of the previous weeks had not been seen recently, and that there had otherwise been little significant activity there, we stopped by that refuge for only an hour or so, during which time we saw very little other than the usual Tundra Swans and a few blackbird flocks. We added only a handful of new species to our bird list and again struck out on bears.
Our last stop of the evening was a Beaufort County wetland mitigation site, where a good number of Short-eared Owls had been reported recently. Arriving about an hour before full dark, we were able to find shelter from the freezing wind behind a storage building; there we waited, keeping watch over a large, wet field where numerous Northern Harriers were foraging. At sunset we were rewarded with probably at least seven Short-eared Owls, and were able to get good looks at some of them. These also represented a lifer bird for most of the group.
We capped off the day with a Pizza Inn buffet in Washington, and arrived back in Raleigh at about 9:10 p.m. We ended with at least 67 bird species, but it was a rather poor day for mammals. White-tailed Deer were the only live mammals that we confirmed; we also saw at least one Nutria, a Gray Fox or two, and several opossums and raccoons as road-kills. Despite the cold weather, a good time was had by all, and everyone learned something.