Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Start Looking for Those Big White Birds

There may be some subtle changes in the movements and make-up of some our local avian birdlife as we enter into July and August. While true migration may be a month and a half away, some birds that we do not see regularly will be moving into our area. These birds are not really migrating but are dispersing into the piedmont.
Dispersal species are primarily those that nest to our south and east, primarily in coastal areas. Most are wetlands nesters. As some wetlands tend to dry out or at least experience a reduction in moisture in mid-summer, birds such as herons, egrets, and some waterfowl start moving around. Most of the time the birds that we see in our area are immature birds that are wandering after having fledges.
Recently three black-bellied whistling ducks appeared at a residential pond in Indian Trail in Union County. This species nests in Florida and up into the South Carolina low country. It is a rapidly expanding species and sighting from North Carolina and other states are increasing accordingly. The Indian Trail birds represent the first piedmont record. A few area birders got to see them but true to form for wandering birds, they did not stay around more than a couple of days.
A more common example of summer dispersal is the movement of large waders like herons and egrets into the area. Birders will start to see an increase in some birds like great egrets, little blue herons, snowy egrets, white ibis and perhaps even wood storks. Keep your eyes peeled for these white birds at the edges of ponds and area lakes.
Some southern raptors disperse northward too. Swallow-tailed kites come into the piedmont in small numbers each year from their nesting territories farther to our south. Don’t count on seeing one; I’ve not seen the species in Mecklenburg County ever, but I keep an eye to the sky this time of year nevertheless.
So if you start to see some odd waders that have not previously been present take a photo and send it to me.  I am particularly interested in the white plumaged ones, or species other than the common great blue herons.

Little blue heron juvenile by Phil Fowler