The Business Birder: Confused Fall Birder
I attended the Carolina
Bird Club meeting in
approached as a Category 5 storm, so I made some preparations for this large of
a storm, including buying the generator that had been on my to-do list the
three years since I moved back to the coast.
Fortunately for us, Isabel became a Category 2 storm and made landfall at
Drum Inlet, well northeast of
I waited to drive to
Adding the drive to Hickory and a day of great fall birding and the drive to Raleigh for a day of great football and then the drive back to Wilmington, all within forty-eight hours, makes the week seem a little surreal as I look back on it.
The CBC meeting was hosted by Dwayne Martin, who also served as guide for my morning trip. Simon Thompson presented a program Friday night on confusing fall warblers that I wish I had seen before the morning adventure when I proved to be a confused fall birder.
My morning trip covered
We saw several
In the afternoon, we
visited the Wagner Property on the
I added Red-headed Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Common Yellowthroat, and Scarlet Tanager. The group saw many more warblers than I did because I wimped out and returned to my SUV early. I had forgotten to take water with me. After I left, the group found a feeding wave that included Black-and-White, Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, and Yellow-throated Warblers.
I am embarrassed to recount my failure; however, I wanted to document the quality of this site. Our guide said they had had fifteen warbler species plus a Western Kingbird on the morning trip to the Wagner property.
The meeting, held at the Park Inn/Gateway Conference Center at the intersection of US 321 and US 70 just off I40 Exit 123, was a big success except for the social hour before the program. I bopped in without eating dinner, expecting a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers to suffice until breakfast. Refreshments consisted of water. Just water!
I rushed out before the program started and bought my own provisions, sharing them with my two new friends, Tommie and Fran from the Winston-Salem Audubon Society, who rode with me throughout the day.
I learn something on
every trip. Back in August, I learned
For its educational value, this trip was no exception. This example was contributed by a birder on the morning trip: “How do you identify a Fish Crow? Just ask him if he is an American Crow. He will tell you.”
Another lesson was learned from a newspaper article on the CBC meeting in the Hickory Record. It quoted Lori Martin on the difference between “birdwatching” and “birding”: “Birdwatchers let the birds come to them; birders go out to look for the birds”. I knew this but I liked the way she said it. She should have, however, worked the word “obsession” into her definition of birding.
I also learned that you can pish a bird out of the sky though this is yet to be proven in my experience. We were trying to locate a Rose-breasted Grosbeak by its squeak (like a sneaker on a gym floor). We flushed the bird, a juvenile Grosbeak, and as it flew overhead, Dwayne tried to pish it out of the air. No joke; he says it sometimes brings them down.
On Sunday, September 28,
I flew to
I usually research
last-minute trips to new birding sites on the Internet. The
I stayed at the Hampton
Inn off I64 at Exit 20. Green Bottom was
15.8 miles from the hotel. To get there,
take I64 Exit 18 going right at the end of the ramp and taking a left about two
blocks later at a “T” intersection. Follow
One landmark on WV 2 is Hillbilly Hotdogs. I did not stop this time but it is on my to-do list for the future. On the return trip, you will see a sign at the intersection of WV 2 and Little Seven Mile Road directing you to I64.
The WMA is about two miles long and there is a “brownoculars” sign on either end, with three entrances in between. The first entrance is for the Hoeft Marsh, which I skipped because a thunderstorm associated with a cold front arrived just after I did.
While waiting for the rain to stop, I investigated the other sites by car. Greenbottoms, the home of Confederate General Albert G. Jenkins, is located on the WMA at the third entrance. I pulled in and was immediately forced to use two large trees out back to shelter my rental car from hail. Caution: sane people should not try this because the lightning may turn out to be worse than the hail.
A nearby historical
marker called the General “brilliant”.
As it turns out, he and his calvary were the first to carry the
Confederate flag into
Between the Marsh and Greenbottoms is the main entrance and parking lot for the headquarters, nature trail, and observation platform. This is where I did all of my birding. It was very birdy, especially close to the creek.
The wetland ecology of
the WMA features several large impoundments, a swamp, and small creeks. The WMA also has many overgrown fields and
scrubby hedgerows that hold a ton of sparrows.
There are two nice rows of hardwoods between the impoundments and the
Birds observed included: Wild Turkey, Eastern Phoebe, Downy Woodpecker, House Wren, White-eyed Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, and Song Sparrow. I saw most of the passerines and two Downy Woodpeckers traveling together in feeding waves. I saw at least four different plumages of Common Yellowthroat and many other warblers I never identified.
Me still confused? Maybe a little; however, I am proud of my identification of a couple of confusing birds at Green Bottom. I found a pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks. Call the rare bird alert!
Oops! They were first winter male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. I had never seen one in this plumage since I had only seen them in the spring. Now if Dwayne had been able to pish that one out of the air, I would have more quickly known what I was looking at.
My other major triumph was identification of a first winter female Magnolia Warbler. It took a while but finally I confirmed every field mark.
My education continues.
The author, John Ennis, is a full time healthcare
consultant and a part time birder, who wishes that it were the other way
around. He lives in the
John B. Ennis ă 2003