Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring is on its Way Here in NC

My wife and I returned a few days ago from a road trip that took us up the east coast to visit friends and family in Washington, DC, Brooklyn, NY, and Boston and Hadley, MA. Winter was still very apparent in MA with huge amounts of snow still waiting for warmer weather to melt it away. But here in NC we are definitely seeing the beginning of spring--warmer days reaching even into the 80's. The redbuds and dogwoods are beginning to blossom, the tree frogs are croaking and we are seeing some early spring migrants.

My daughter is home for spring break with her boyfriend. He and I went for my first of the year spring bird ramble on our land. I had not yet heard any Louisiana waterthrushes calling, but I knew they should be here by now. My sis told me yesterday that she had one calling below her house on the other side of the 230 acres that we live on outside of Chapel Hill. As we walked down the creek that flows below our house I heard a waterthrush call. We tracked it around the bend and found not one but 2 males competing for territory.

The top photo above is of a beaver dam on Morgan creek (click on photo to enlarge). This dam gets blown out about twice a year when we have a big rain, but the beavers quickly rebuild it. We continued to walk along Morgan creek which is shown in the middle photo above. About a quarter mile further up the creek we found a third waterthrush staking out its territory.

By the time we got up to our main pond we had a pretty good list of birds: hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, northern flicker, tufted titmouse, Carolina chickadee, American robin, northern cardinal, hermit thrush, eastern bluebird, a probable swamp sparrow, white throated sparrow, winter wren, yellow-rumped and pine warblers, eastern towhee, and the remains of a Canada goose egg.

As we were heading for home we heard several crows mobbing something. At first sighting I thought it was one of our resident barred owls, but when the owl flushed we got a better look and realized that it was a great horned owl. Last night when we were having dinner we heard coyotes, and then heard a great horned owl calling behind our house, which was a surprise since we rarely have them on our property. So it was nice to see it this morning as well.

After seeing the great horned we happened on a pileated woodpecker making a hole in a huge dead pine tree (bottom photo). Back at the house we picked up a downy woodpecker--we had seen a yellow-bellied sapsucker yesterday. We also had American goldfinches, chipping sparrows, mourning doves and dark-eyed juncos.

I have added links to 2 new big year blog sites. A birder named John Vanderpoel from Colorado is doing a full ABA big year and is off to a good start (big year 2011). Matt Stenger is the other birder who is doing a big year in 2011 (716birds).

No rare birds showed up in New England while we were up there, so it is nice to be able to do some everyday birding locally. I will regularly walk our land over the next few weeks to see what is going on with the bird migration. Stay tuned!

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