Early Spring Birding
North Mills River, NC
April 6, 2013
A chilly morning turned to a gorgeous spring afternoon as our group racked up 61 species for our first of many spring day trips. We began the day at Van Wingerden in Mills River, where we had Song, Swamp and Savannah Sparrow around the pond. In the fields we had great scope views of 2 Eastern Meadowlarks, their bright yellow breasts catching the sun's rays. At the Wastewater Treatment Plant we had both Lesser Scaup and Bufflehead, with Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows skimming the pond's surface. Over on Hooper Lane we were treated to excellent views of Pectoral Sandpipers and Wilson's Snipe feeding on invertebrates on the bare ground with gobs of Killdeer. A highlight of the day was 3 American Kestrels perched on the irrigation system and a large flock of juvenile White-crowned Sparrows near the Town Hall.
Heading up North Mills River Road we had Eurasian Collared-Dove, a singing Brown Thrasher and an animated Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, recently returned from the tropics. During a wonderful picnic lunch we had great looks at a Hairy and Downy Woodpecker next to each other in the same tree, giving a great comparison of size and bill length. Right after lunch we heard the song of a Louisiana Waterthrush ringing out from the rhododendron, and the group got fleeting glances as it flew back and forth over our heads.
As the day progressed and the weather got warmer the birds quieted down substantially, but we continued to see a nice variety. For one of our last stops we scoped out Lake Julian, and though it was crowded with people we managed to find 2 Common Loons and 6 Horned Grebes (most of which were in breeding plumage), as well as a few Double-crested Cormorants and a large flock of Ring-billed Gull.
What a beautiful, bird-filled spring day it was here in the North Carolina Mountains!