After all the cold, snowy and wet weather we've had recently, the twelve participants were treated to a very nice day for this late winter field trip to the A&T Farm. As we gathered at the farm entrance about 8:30 a.m. to consolidate into as few cars as possible to comfortably caravan around the farm, the temperature was at 32 degrees. Without wind and under sunny skies this was quite comfortable, and we were dressed appropriately for this weather. When we left the farm soon after noon, the temperature was a warm 46 degrees.
This was the first trip to the farm for four of the participants. It's great having some who are experiencing this trip for the fist time. Everyone makes an even greater effort to point out and identify birds they spot
From Tom and Stella Wear:
This was our first trip to the A&T Farm. It is an impressive facility and we saw good birds. It's always fun to be with a group such as we had. We saw our first North Carolina Cooper's Hawk and a favorite bird, the Brown Creeper.
At our first stop overlooking the pond near the milking barn and surrounding pastures, someone exclaimed "there's a white goose with the Canada Geese out there!" I got the scope on it and verified it was a Snow Goose as others took a closer look through the scope. This is the first year a Snow Goose has been reported at the farm. On January 31. when I made a scouting trip to the farm with Roberta Newton and Ann Vant Sant, we saw a Snow Goose grazing with Canada Geese near a pond across McConnell Road. I wondered aloud if this could be the same bird that was seen more than a month earlier but we'll never know. The farm workers are not birders and hadn't reported seeing a white goose.
The first pond yielded several duck species (Bufflehead, Ring-necked, and Ruddy Duck) but surprisingly no Wilson's Snipe around the edges where they are often seen at this time of year. Next, we crossed McConnell Road to the pond where Northern Shovelers are regularly seen in winter. They did not disappoint and didn't fly away when we got out of our vehicles to check them out. They were in the sun, displaying their beautiful colors - the male with its spatulate bill which is longer than the head, and the white breast and brown sides topped off by a green head. The female is equally beautiful in her own right with the large bill and a mottled appearance.
"Eagle Eye" Henry Link spotted American Pipits (one of the target birds for this trip) at a distance flying in a tight flock from one place to another in the grassy areas above the pond. Unfortunately, they didn't stay put long enough to allow everyone to get a close view of these birds in a scope but all saw them through binoculars.
Our next stop was to more ponds across McConnell Road from the main farm entrance, also surrounded by fields, as well as research gardens and greenhouses at a distance. The single Great Blue Heron of the trip was here, fishing in the shallows of one of the ponds. A female Hooded Merganser swam nearby.
Part of the group hiked up to a brushy area which contributed several sparrow species to the bird list.
Every trip to A&T Farm has at least one very memorable moment, and this one was no exception: a flock of male Red-winged Blackbirds foraging on the ground under a small copse of pines took flight and flashed their epaulets in perfect unison before disappearing into the needles above. Stunning!"
Finally, we were able to gain access to the hog farm. While getting the gate unlocked and open, some were able to see an accipiter sitting in a nearby field. Luckily for us the bird soon took flight in our direction and was identified as a Cooper's Hawk, a species not often seen on these trips to the farm. Altogether we saw four species of hawks -Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered in addition to the Cooper's.
Another one of the target birds for this trip is the Wilson's Snipe, which we didn't find at the other reliable location here. They sometimes show up along the edges of the lagoons which collect waste water from the hog operation. Cautioning everyone to walk slowly and as quietly as possible to the lagoons paid off as a pair of snipe was standing in the corner of the lagoon nearest to us. They soon took flight and anyone who didn't see them standing was able to see them circling around us with their long bills quite visible.
Driving out from the hog farm we stopped to look for an Eastern Phoebe at a small creek which passes under the road. It was almost noon and the birds were very quiet. We were almost ready to load up to return to the entrance parking lot when someone spotted a Brown Creeper climbing up the side of a large pine tree just in front of us. It was very cooperative and nearly everyone got a good, long view at this secretive bird. The Creeper hasn't been seen on many of these field trips to the farm or on Christmas and Spring Counts. What a great bird to end the trip on!
Birds Seen or Heard on March 7, 2015
Great Blue Heron
American Pipit **
Species totals for this late winter trip to A&T Farm in the last seven years (Note: 2009 trip canceled due to weather)
2005 – 37
2006 – 42
2007 – 43
2008 – 40
2010 – 45
2011 – 46 (Tied for highest number iin
2012 – 46 last seven February/March trips)
2013 – 45
2014 – 45
2015 - 42
* = first one seen on late winter/early spring trips to the Farm. Not recorded on Christmas or Spring Counts to this site either.
** = target birds