On the first of March, I returned to my seasonal position as a park interpreter at Logoly State Park. My return featured rather slow birding. I got the usual passerines and woodpecker troupe in the park, but found very little outside of it. Finally, after daylight savings began, I could bird extensively after work. I used these extra daylight hours to bird Lake Columbia on the evening of the 14th.
I started this outing at my usual spot, the north fork of the lake, via Columbia Rd 142. Here, I first noticed a raft over 100 Ring-necked Ducks. This isn’t too terribly odd, especially for this time of year, but the observation did get flagged on eBird for being a high count. In and around this raft were other water birds in much lower numbers. I also had about seven Pied-billed Grebes mingling with these diving ducks. On the perimeter of this raft were Wood Ducks and American Coots. A quick scan of the banks revealed a low perched Red-shouldered Hawk (only a couple feet from the water) and a group of Great Blue Herons wading in emergent vegetation. Overhead were a handful of Double-crested Cormorants flying from one side of the lake to another.
I moved on to the northern most boat ramp and began counting coots. I only tallied about 50 coots, which seemed like a low count for this mostly migrant species. There was a decent-sized kettle of about 30 Turkey Vultures and a lone Black Vulture. Earlier in the month, I counted a kettle of about 70 Turkey Vultures and close to five Black Vultures. Many birds are getting ready to move north, so large numbers like this are expected. There were several winter resident songbirds out here, as well. I got 8 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 2 Swamp Sparrows, a Golden-crowned, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
I did stop at the northern landing, but it was so full of people that I didn’t stay long. I did hear a singing Pine Warbler and saw a few Red-winged Blackbirds. I wanted to count Common Loons but didn’t see any. My last visit had a regional high of ~30 individuals. Several of these were yodeling. The lake’s popularity with boating activities hindered my viewing of these birds at this site. However, I’m going to try and see them again, for they should be completing their pre-alternate molt. Loons of any type are quite stunning in breeding plumage.
Another sign of spring was the emergence of certain insects, including the Fragile Forktail. This is one of the longest-flying species, in terms of the range of flight dates, in AR and is always one of the first Odonate that I see each year. I saw several newly emerged individuals at the banks of Lake Columbia on this outing. Temps are consistently in the 60s or above, so I hope to see more of them soon.