Late Autumn Birding
Mills River Park & Hooper Lane,
Mills River, NC
Saturday, November 8, 2014
We started this cold morning with a walk around Mills River Park. The brushy ditches and fencerows here regularly attract good numbers of wintering sparrows and can sometimes hold surprises. White-crowned and Song Sparrows were the first birds of the day and soon after we added Savannah to the list. We watched as a small flock foraged on the ground next to the path, paying special attention that not every individual had a yellow supraloral spot. Also around were Swamp and Field Sparrows, both very attractive species. Down towards the river we found White-throated Sparrows, 2 Rusty Blackbirds and a single Western Palm Warbler pumping its tail. As we turned around to head back towards the cars, Liz spotted a Peregrine Falcon flying overhead. We got great but brief looks before it disappeared behind the tree line.
On Hooper Lane we thoroughly searched the ditches for more sparrows, finding plenty more Song and Savannah Sparrows. After looping back around we managed to find a single Vesper Sparrow on plowed ground. The bird had flown up from one of the ditches, exposing its white outer tail feathers which had grabbed our attention. Examining the bird through the scope, the bold white eye ring and a small amount of the rufous ‘shoulder’ were both visible.
Before calling it a day we decided to look for the Eurasian Collared-Doves by the Ingles on 280 since Liz had never seen one. Normally they are quite obvious at this location but they were much harder to find this time around. After much searching, we finally found 2 perched side by side in a maple. As an added bonus, while we were watching the doves, we managed to find another Vesper Sparrow! Whether or not this was the first-ever sighting of this species from an Ingles parking lot remains to be seen.