Sunday, November 17, 2013

November, So Far

The past few weeks have been relatively uneventful considering birding. I went to the mountains with the Museum and got some new county ticks, but no noteworthy birds.  Despite our group's best effort to find Red Crossbills, the best bird of the weekend was a mere Hairy Woodpecker.

Okay, this made up for the lack of birds in the mountains.
I have, however, fared slightly better closer to home.  On Halloween I had great views of a Lincoln's Sparrow down at Harris Lake.  It was an excellent life bird for me, the only one reported in Wake County so far this year (I would have a photo if I hadn't forgotten a memory card...).  On November 2nd I also found some locally uncommon Vesper Sparrows and my first NC American Pipits this year.

Vesper Sparrow on Inwood Road
Other than those stated above, I really haven't birded all that much- hence the lack of posts on this blog.  But this weekend, I felt I needed to see something good.  I felt a little out of practice.  I felt rusty.

Rusty Blackbirds were today's target.  Rusties have experienced a dramatic decline over the passed several decades, with no concise explanation.  Habitat loss is one possible culprit, though mercury poisoning may be a more likely cause.  The species' population has declined anywhere from 85-99%, a downright shocking number.  This decline is also why these birds are somewhat difficult to find - especially along the East Coast, where the birds have been especially hard-hit.  

Rusty Blackbirds love wetlands, and Lake Betz up in the Research Triangle Park north of my house has the perfect swampy habitat these birds yearn for.  Naturally, this was the first place I went to look.  Just five minutes into my visit, two rusties, a male and a female, flew into view.  My first lifer this month, and one that has been a long time coming.  

After a spotting a few more noteworthy birds- at least seven Red-headed Woodpeckers and my second Winter Wren of the year- we headed over to Lake Crabtree to scan for ducks.  Several beautiful Hooded Mergansers, Lesser Scaup, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Ducks, and two American Wigeon were all in a raft in the center of the lake.  American Wigeon was a new county bird for me.  It was nice to finally see some ducks - a sign that winter has arrived (at least in terms of avifauna).  Now if only I could find a real rarity...

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