Over the weekend 20 of us went down to view the Purple Martins that roost under the William B Umstead Bridge, which is the “old” Hwy 64 bridge to Manteo from Wanchese. Between June and September, over 100,000 Purple Martins, from as far away as Virginia spend the nights here before migrating down to South American for the winter. During the day the birds eat insects as they soar over the surrounding islands and farms.
Watching the birds arrive at the roost at night is quite a spectacle: clouds of Martins flying in from all directions! The noise is amazing as they arrange themselves on the I-beams below the bridge. One of the reasons this is such a popular roost is because its above water, which prevents many predators from getting the birds.
The bridge has special flashing speed limit signs warning motorists to slow down for the birds (though sadly, many people do not). There are hopes that maybe a fence can be put up. Dare county is going to build a viewing platform at the Wanchese end of the bridge for folks to watch the birds from.
For more information, check out The Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society’s webpage. Thanks to everyone who came on the trip this weekend!
I wanted to remind everyone that we have some great field trips coming up! This weekend, June 6, is the spring count at our adopted Important Bird Area, which is the Lumber River. If you want to come down and help us count birds (no experience required) you are welcome! For details contact Richard Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continuing the Year of the Purple Martin, next month we are leading a trip in conjunction with the Museum of Natural Sciences to Manteo to see the amazing roost of Purple Martins under the old Hwy 64 Bridge. We will bird the outer banks during the day, and in the evening take a boat and watch the birds fly to roost under the bridge. Estimates put the numbers at over 100,000 Purple Martins! For information about the trip and how to register, check out the museum’s website. http://www.naturalsciences.org/programs-events/?select=1008
A joint trip between the Museum of Natural Sciences and Wake Audubon visited the Boone area this last weekend. Thanks to Curtis Smalling, NC Audubon’s Mountain area bird biologist and the great birders on the trip we saw 78 species.
We stopped at the Alamance County rest area off of I-40 on Friday afternoon, and though we did not find the Orchard Oriole who usually is there we did find a Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting on a nest! Everyone got great views in the scope. Thanks to Martha Fisk and her sharp eyes for spotting it.
We birded Saturday morning at Trout Lake, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Moses Cone Manor. Highlights this morning included a Brown Creeper carrying food to it’s nest, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker excavating a cavity, great looks at a very cooperative Chesnut-sided Warbler, and Black-throated Blue Warblers galore. Curtis joined us for lunch at Moses Cone Manor house, and we all headed to Valle Crucis Community Park.
Valle Crucis park runs along the Watuagua River and features a host of nifty mountain birds. Some of the highlights of this afternoon included: Yellow Warbler, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Least and Willow Flycatchers, Tree, Barn and Rough-winged Swallow. Despite looming skies, and even a mid bird walk shower, everyone had a great attitude and got good looks at the birds. After that, we all had ice cream.
Sunday dawned cold, wet and dreary. Despite the weather, we still were able to get some great looks at Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Red-winged Blackbirds in the vicinity of New Market Baptist Church. Curtis took his leave from our group after finding a number of cooperative Golden-winged Warblers at a few different sites and also a lovely American Redstart. We struck out on Vesper Sparrow, it was just to rainy for them, and though we heard Savannah Sparrows we never saw them either. After lunch we did a quick stop on the Stony Bald overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway and got a male and (lovely yellow) Scarlet Tananger and also Black-throated Green Warbler.
An uneventful ride home and we were back in Raleigh at 6! Thanks everyone who participated for making it such a fun weekend.