North Carolina – Part 1

It has been a while since I’ve last blogged, but to make it up to you I hope that this next series of posts will be more interesting than the standard fare here. I just got back from a week-long trip to Raleigh, North Carolina for family, multiple birthday cakes, and of course birds.

I have always brought along my camera when visiting the parents, because North Carolina offers better diversity and a few different species than what I am used to in the Midwest. But during the week we were there, my down time was filled with exploring the biodiversity around their new home on the northwest side of the city.

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Carolina Wren

The yard birds were superb, helped greatly by proximity to a lake and the William B. Umstead State Park. Though abundant and also easily found in the north, Carolina Wrens evoked a feeling of being in the south that few other birds can match.

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Brown-headed Nuthatch

Okay, so Brown-headed Nuthatches can match and surpass that feeling. The only thing that could make this photo of a BHNU perched on a pine cone more southern is if it were sticking its bill into a vat of pork barbecue.

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Zabulon Skipper

The butterfly game was also strong in the yard. Every morning a pleasant cloud of Zabulon Skippers would be nectaring in the flowers by the front porch. Life lep!

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Yellow butterflies were also represented at a larger scale, too. Walter named this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail “Caunsey.”

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William B. Umstead State Forest

Birding in the neighborhood wasn’t complete without a visit to the Umstead State Forest next door, close enough to walk to.

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Summer Tanager

The park did not offer any new birds, but the number of species that I have only seen once or twice in the Hoosier state were impressively represented. Summer Tanagers were clucking everywhere, which was exciting to see because I live on the very northern fringe of their range and only rarely see them.

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Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeaks were also exceedingly common in a power line cut going through the middle of the park. Again, found in Indiana, but not very often.

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Big Lake

The trail eventually opened up on a big lake fittingly named Big Lake.

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Yellow-spotted Millipede

The lake allowed all kinds of bugs to flourish, including some pretty crazy things like this weiner dog-sized ‘pede.

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Southern Cloudywing

Again with the skippers, and another lifer in that regard. This Southern Cloudywing was the only one I saw on my hike.

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Web

While I will never get used to the feeling of walking through a spiderweb while focusing on a distant bird, at least they can be pretty scenic.

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Blue-headed Vireo

The vireos really seemed to like the arthropod buffet. And again, this is a species that I have only seen  few times previously.

With the good birds (and other things) coming at such a rapid clip, I was in the mood to get out of the house and out of town for an extended morning to go hunt much more rare creatures. That summary will be coming up next.

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Birding Holliday Park

Now that I am done with school (forever!), I will hopefully be birding more frequently. I even bought a new Nikon Coolpix L810 to replace my dead Canon especially for the cause. For my inaugural post-master’s bird hike, this morning I ventured to Holliday Park, which is a large city park with hiking trails and cool ruins that is only about two miles from home. I made a good decision, because I identified 28 species and heard and saw probably a dozen others that I couldn’t pin down. I also managed to get some good photos from the brand new camera.

The first interesting bird of the day was a bright red streak that I saw dart below a shrub off to my right almost directly inside of the entrance gate. I made a mental note of “Cardinal” and instead turned my attention to whatever small unidentifiable bird was singing from a treetop overhead, with the hope that it would be some kind of new Warbler. It eventually left me without a positive ID, so I continued down the path, only to see the Cardinal again. I figured I might as well try to get a picture since it was posing for me so nicely in a locust tree up ahead. As I zoomed in, I realized that it did not have a black mask, it did not have a crest, and it had a thin yellow beak, which made it a Summer Tanager, not a Northern Cardinal.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

This was really exciting for a few reasons. First, these birds are relatively uncommon, usually preferring to fly around woodland treetops eating bees, and central Indiana is in the extreme northern extent of their range. Second, I had never seen one before. Third, despite never seeing one, I knew exactly what it was and didn’t have to look to see if it was a Summer or a Scarlet Tanager, which made me proud of my birding skills.

The only other bird that exciting for me was the enormous Pileated Woodpecker that flew down and perched in a small tree about 30 feet from me. I scrambled for my camera, took one blurry picture, then was told I was “out of memory.” After deleting a few pictures of more common birds to make room, the Pileated flew away, of course.

Some birds I did get pictures of include these Canada Geese on the White River:

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

This Gray Catbird yodeling from the top of a tree:

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

An Eastern Bluebird towards the middle of the lawn:

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

And these three Brown-Headed Cowbirds out of about 17 billion in the park that day:

Brown-Headed Cowbird

Brown-Headed Cowbird

My full count for the day, in order of appearance, included:
1.) American Robin
2.) Eastern Wood Pewee
3.) Red-Bellied Woodpecker
4.) Brown-Headed Cowbird
5.) White-Breasted Nuthatch
6.) White-Throated Sparrow (vocalization only)
7.) Chipping Sparrow
8.) Tufted Titmouse
9.) American Goldfinch
10.) Mallard
11.) Gray Catbird
12.) Northern Cardinal
13.) Summer Tanager (lifer!)
14.) Common Grackle
15.) House Sparrow
16.) Downy Woodpecker
17.) Eastern Bluebird
18.) Mourning Dove (vocalization only)
19.) Song Sparrow
20.) Canada Goose
21.) Carolina Wren
22.) Blue Jay (vocalization only)
23.) Pileated Woodpecker
24.) Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
25.) Carolina Chickadee
26.) House Finch
27.) Turkey Vulture
28.) European Starling