Bird House On The Greenway
We local birders are fortunate to have access to a wide variety of habitats in which to pursue our passion. The mountains and beaches are just a couple of hours away, the nearby Sandhills offer opportunities to see several rare and threatened species. We are especially fortunate to have some large man-made reservoirs available that regularly attract species that are associated with ocean and more coastal areas.
I had the opportunity recently to join five other local birders on an evening boat ride on the main channel of Lake Norman. The goal was to find rare gulls that mix in with the huge ring-billed gull flock that forms each winter at the Davidson Creek confluence. An estimated 12,000 gulls gather to roost in the evening there, affording birders a close-up study of several gull and diving bird species.
We pulled out of the dock at 4:00 pm and immediately were rewarded with a fly-over adult bald eagle. Horned and pied-billed grebes were scattered throughout the cove, diving for the last catch of the day. Horned grebes are more common on salt water but a small number of birds winter each year on the lake. As we approached the main channel common loons, another big water species, became evident. We tallied perhaps a dozen of these charismatic divers.
The formation of the gull flock was well underway with thousands sitting on the water while thousands more were streaming in to join. It really is a sight to behold. Ring-billed gulls make up 99% or more of the numbers but smaller Bonaparte’s gulls and larger herring gulls are easy to pick out. Most of the herring gulls are first-year birds that are dark brown, making them easy to identify. The gulls pack in pretty tightly, while the grebes and loons scatter about the periphery.
There is always the potential for rarities when there is a gathering of that size, and the Lake Norman flock has brought in many over the years. Eight species have been tallied over the years and there is potential for more. On that evening no unusual or rare ones turned up but the experience, as usual, was exhilarating.