Pretty in Pink

The big birding story for this past month has been the northward influx of roseate spoonbills throughout the eastern United States. Individuals of this tropical species have appeared well into the northeast, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and beyond. North Carolina has been a happy recipient in the northward movement of spoonbills too; with birds appearing in all sections of the state. Mecklenburg and Union counties even had visits from spoonbills with an astounding 5 individuals in a cove off of the Catawba River and an equally amazing 4 birds currently being seen at Lake Twitty north of Monroe.

Roseate Spoonbill Photo by Rob Van Epps

It is not unusual for a few random sightings of roseate spoonbills to occur every summer in the state. It has become almost expected for an individual or two to show up in Brunswick County (Sunset Beach area) every summer. And one or two will wander a bit farther inland too. It is the sheer numbers of birds showing up that is unprecedented.

Mid-summer has always been a time to look for post-breeding dispersed waders in the piedmont. However, the movement used to be pretty much limited to great egrets, little blue herons, and the occasional snowy egret. In the last decade or so they have been increasingly joined by wood storks, tricolored herons, and now, roseate spoonbills. Local birders now have something to actually get out and look for during the hot, humid, days of July and August; traditionally a slow time for birding in our area.

My nemesis bird to add to my NC State List used to be the roseate spoonbill. For years I would follow up on reports from the Sunset Beach area and make the drive down to Brunswick County in futile attempts to add it to my list. Then one year a bird showed up at Lake Twitty and hung out for a couple of weeks. I, and dozens of local birders, got to see and enjoy the bird literally twenty minutes from my house. Three years ago a spoonbill dropped down in Davidson, in Mecklenburg County, for one day. I missed that bird and the opportunity to add it to my Mecklenburg County List. I only had to wait a couple of years though to get my Mecklenburg spoonbill when a bird appeared at McAlpine Park last year, literally nine minutes from my house. As I have learned over several decades of birding and listing, sometimes with patience, the birds will come to you.

Keep a look out in neighborhood wetlands and ponds, there is still time for more to enter our area. Even if you don’t see one of these spectacular pink waders, you may discover something almost as, or even rarer. There are even fewer Mecklenburg records for wood stork. Large dispersing waders are pretty conspicuous so you shouldn’t have to look too hard. Let me know what you see.

Photo credits:  Roseate Spoonbill:  Rob Van Epps; wood stock:  John Ennis