By Kari Wouk, Wake Audubon Board member
On a cold winter’s morning this past Saturday, 12 Wake Auduboners ventured out at Anderson Point Park to learn about Cunning Corvids and enjoy a winter bird walk. I brought a couple of specimens from the Naturalist Center at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences-the two specimens we were most likely to see-an American Crow and a Blue Jay (we saw both). We talked about corvids, their amazing intelligence, learning behavior and remarkable adaptations.
Then, we headed out for a walk around the park. We saw many of the normal species for the season, including Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Cardinals, Dark-eyed Juncos and more. A Red-headed Woodpecker gave us wonderful views. Things didn’t get really interesting until we got out to the point, though! There we saw a suspicious crime scene. There was some nice mud, just perfect for animal tracks! There were some tracks that were obviously raccoon but right next to them were tracks that were much smaller, though superficially similar (check out our Facebook page for photos). Right next to the tracks was a corpse! The unfortunate critter was a White-footed Mouse, looking a little worse for the wear. It had obviously been there for a little while since it was splattered with mud.
So, we ask, what happened? After consulting with some experts at the Museum (thanks John Connors and Mike Dunn), it was decided that 1) the tracks belonged to a muskrat and 2) the dead mouse was circumstantial and unrelated. Muskrats do not eat mice. So, the mystery goes unsolved but maybe someone will come along have a nice little mousie snack for free.
After the walk, some of us stayed and cleaned out the nest boxes. Wake Audubon has a variety of nesting places (not all are boxes) for birds at Anderson Point. Unfortunately, no sign of nesting Purple Martins at the martin house. We had our usual huge success with bluebirds-six out of ten boxes were used (and one of the unused ones was on the ground, so that doesn’t really count). There was no sign of nesting in the kestrel box. Of the three flicker boxes, one was empty, one had a squirrel nest in it (with a mummified baby squirrel in it) and the other had a nest of grasses (Connors theorizes starling). Both phoebe cups had evidence of nesting. We did not check the four prothonatory boxes or the chimney swift tower (our ladder was not tall enough!) but I hope to get to that soon.
All in all, a very successful day in nature!
Tonight’s monthly meeting will be canceled due to the inclement weather. Enjoy the snow and busy feeders today!
Attention Young Naturalist’s and parents!
On Saturday, January 8, the Young Naturalists’ Club will meet for a service event. The activity will involve trash cleanup at the Middle Creek Bottomlands II, a tract owned by the Triangle Land Conservancy along Smith Road in Johnston County. Much of the trash is along the side of Smith Road, but some is back in the woods or in the water. Trash bags will be provided. Bring warm clothes and work gloves. Waterproof boots and a garden hoe (for pulling trash out of water) are helpful if you have them. We may see some birds, too–this site is good for Swamp Sparrows in the winter. We’ll meet at the parking lot east of the Museum of Natural History and the state historical museum at 9:00 to carpool down to the site.
If you’d prefer to drive directly to the site and need directions, they are as follows: Drive south from Raleigh on I-40 toward Benson and Wilmington. Well before you reach Benson, get off at Exit 319 (NC rt. 210) and turn left. Drive four miles and turn left onto Smith Road. There’s a sign at the corner that reads “Dodd’s Pro Body Works.” Drive down the hill to the bridge over Middle Creek, pass it, and drive to the subdivision on the far side of the swamp. Turn left onto Water Oak Drive and park there.
Please let Erik know at erthomas (at) ncsu (dot) edu if you are going to attend!