Ducks and Winter Birding
February 16, 2013
It was a small group that set out to brave the frigid air and overcast skies for this day trip. Our first stop was Hooper Lane where we had good looks at such commonalities as Song Sparrow, Northern Mockingbird, and sizeable flocks of American Robin. On Hooper, behind the Mills River Town Hall, we were treated to glances of a small group of White-crowned Sparrows, containing both adults and juveniles for good comparison. While we had no ducks at the Mills River Wastewater Treatment Plant, we did spot a Pied-billed Grebe and a very cooperative juvenile Cooper's Hawk, which gave us great looks as it sat perched in the same position for nearly 10 minutes.
Minutes down the road at Van Wingerden we had Swamp Sparrow and a small group of Mallard on the pond, with robins, Eastern Bluebirds and Carolina Chickadees forming a frenzy of activity all around us. Feels like spring might not be that far away! At the flooded fields farther back from the road we were treated to excellent looks of a singing Eastern Meadowlark and about 15 Wilson's Snipe, as well as the occasional Killdeer and a huge flock of European Starling (150+).
Right before breaking for lunch at Mills River Restaurant we located one of the local populations of Eurasian Collared-Dove next to the new Ingles and had good, prolonged scope views of this introduced and regionally uncommon species. After lunch we went to Lake Osceola, which time and again has been the place for ducks this winter. At this point in the day it was snowing heavily, the large flurries swirling down amongst the rafts of ducks on the lake, creating a picturesque view. We got great looks at Gadwall, Hooded Merganser, American Coot and Bufflehead. A nice highlight was a Belted Kingfisher that sat perched and preening on the same branch as the snow fell, giving the group a fantastic look at this common yet stunning species.
We finished the day in Hendersonville, having even more success at Four Seasons Marsh where we saw 8 Northern Shoveler, 30+ Ring-necked Ducks and an Eastern Phoebe showing off its characteristic 'there and back' hunting style.