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Swift in the house; Wildathon

Hi Carolinabirders,

Spent Saturday at Howell Woods, and had a great time. High point was
probably a pair of Mississippi Kites swooping and wheeling over the big
meadow by the visitor's center, and hearing a couple of very late Pine
Siskins calling from above the very busy feeder area.

My wife told me over the phone that she had come home from a few days in
SC and found a dead bird under an end table in our living room! Her theory
was that one of our cats had somehow gotten ahold of one. She stuck the
body in the freezer. I got home, looked in the freezer, and found a
Chimney Swift! Doubt our cats could have caught one of those, even if we
let them out unattended! Must have somehow slipped into the house, maybe
the seal in the fireplace has come loose, and either starved or (more
likely, since we never saw it alive) crashed into a window and broken its
neck. John Connors, want the specimen for the museum? It's still in my

On Sunday I joined with buddies from the Duke Natural History Society to
make our contributions to the Wildathon, the Chapel Hill SBC, and the site
inventory for the TLC's Irvin Tract all at once! I won't include a
complete species list here: identifications are still being made, we had
close to 100 animal species and 140 plants, plus a fungus or two. I
started alone around 5:00 AM with a few Song Sparrows singing in the
artificial lights around a Hillsborough Road, DUrham gas station (those,
of course, counted for the WIldathon but not the other two counts). I
managed to reach Irvin and hear Whip-poor-wills before the sun came up. No
owls then, but the sky was gray enough that I managed to hear an Eastern
Screech-Owl calling in the woods well after daybreak! I also heard a
Northern Bobwhite calling before dawn, but had to take it off the list
when the farmer next door told me he raised them in captivity and released
them on his property.

Bird totals were not bad, 55 species, given that I heard virtually no
migrants. One Blackpoll singing across Jones Ferry Road from the Burger
King (again, counted only for the Wildathon), and a Black-throated Blue
Warbler singing halfheartedly at Irvin, that was about it. The only new
diurnal bird species I added to the Irvin list was Louisiana Waterthrush,
I heard and then saw one along the creek there. Briefly left Irvin to
cruise the rest of my CH SPC assignment: best moment came when I parked by
the intersection of Carl Durham Road and the Old Greensboro Highway to
observe the pond there, and a male Orchard Oriole appeared on the fence
about 5 feet from my open car window and sang! Alas, he saw me moving and
flew off before I could get my camera out... Saw a female nearby too.

Then met up with Craig Armstrong, Roger Rittmaster, and the rest of the
DNHS volunteers for the day. We didn't add many new bird species to the
list after that, possibly because we were paying a lot more attention to
plants, insects, and other critters at that point. But we did have a
fantastic time watching a pair of Scarlet Tanagers beginning to nest! The
male mostly posed nearby, the female repeatedly flew back to one
particular branch with twigs and bits of dried grapevine tendril; they
must have just started, as we couldn't see the nest at all. And a little
later in the day, Craig found an Ovenbird nest with at least six eggs in

In non-bird discoveries, Craig also spotted a Red Fox briefly. We saw
three skink species (Five-lined, Ground, and a huge female that Roger was
sure was Broad-headed), and heard at least four species of frog (Bullfrog
and Green before sunrise, Cricket and Cope's Gray Treefrog later). Saw six
dragonfly and three damselfly species, plus a Jumping Bristletail, a
big predatory firefly (Photuris versicolor), and a mating pair of
bee-mimicking robberflies (Laphria sp.). At one point I even stumbled
across the colorful and odorful Dog Stinkhorn (Mutinus ravenelii)!

Good birding,


Joshua S. Rose
Duke University
Department of Biology (Zoology, R.I.P.)