Alice had a bridge tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I thought that it would be fun to do some birding in that area. Although the Charlotte area is similar to that of central Virginia, I hoped that some of the migrating species that have already moved south out of Virginia might be found in the Charlotte area. Several months prior to the trip, I purchased the three volume set of books on the North Carolina Birding Trail, and started following some of the North Carolina birding list servers. I wanted to avoid driving long distances to either the coast or the mountains, and selected a candidate list of birding sites to visit in the Charlotte area. I was sceptical about finding any life birds on this trip, but read that the LeConte's Sparrow was a target species at one of my selected sites, and that would be a life bird for me. A few days before the trip I learned that the last time a LeConte's Sparrow was seen at that site was in 2001, so my chances of getting a life bird were pretty slim.
We took Route 29 south to I-85 in North Carolina. About 40 to 50 miles from Charlotte, we encountered lots of traffic, road construction, and even worse, about 10% of the cars going in our direction were driving at 10 to 20 mph above the speed limit, weaving in and out of lanes without signaling, passing on the right, tail-gating, and other reckless driving behavior. This would prove to affect the choices I made as to the sites I visited in the Charlotte area.
We arrived late in the afternoon, and I read on one of the Carolina list servers about a Golden-winged Warbler being sighted that same day at Clark's Creek Nature Preserve. This site wasn't even in the birding trail guides, or I didn't see it listed, and it was only five miles from the hotel where we were staying. So I decided to try some birding there the next day.
The hotel and other shops surrounded a large man-made pond, and Alice and I did a morning walk around it. I saw 10 species on that short hike, including Canada Geese, Mallards, two American Coots, two Ruddy Ducks, and a Double-crested Cormorant in the pond.
Later in the morning, I drove the short distance to Clark's Creek Nature Preserve. I was really surprised to see how good a birding site this is. This nature preserve is 109 acres in size, and had grassy fields, old growth and new growth wooded areas, a good-sized pond, and it was exceptionally "birdy." By late in the afternoon, my trip list was up to 36 avian species, and I hadn't explored all of the preserve.
There were lots of Bluebirds, Mockingbirds, and Phoebes, and the grassy fields were loaded with Meadowlarks that quickly disappeared when they landed in the tall grasses.
I saw a fair number of Palm Warblers, one Pine Warbler, and a few Cape May and Yellow-rumped Warblers.
Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler
I hiked only a small amount of the wooded trails, but did see several woodland species.
At one point of the woodland hike, I saw what, at first, I thought was a Pewee, but then I saw it had a well separated and fairly dark vest. I wondered if it might have been an Olive-sided Flycatcher, but it bothered me that I saw it on a lower branch, whereas Olive-sided Flycatchers are usually on the highest dead branch at the top of a tree.
I stopped and showed the flycatcher photos to three local birders, and they confirmed it as a Pewee. After chatting with one of the local birders, I learned that he had traveled up to the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in February 2015 to see the Smith's Longspur that Walt Childs and I had discovered there. Small world!
As I was getting ready to leave for the day, I saw a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk fly to and land in a nearby tree. It stayed there for a few minutes before taking off again.
Birding was so good here at Clark's Creek, and it was close to the hotel, and driving on the highways a bit more intense than I prefer, that I considered only going birding at this one site this week. Driving on highways to other and more distant Charlotte birding sites, where I would most likely see almost all the same avian species, didn't appeal to me. Perhaps I would change my mind, especially if anyone posted a rare species at any of the other sites.Click here to continue to my birding report for October 23