Rare birds migrate through Washington

Published 3:41 pm Saturday, December 19, 2020

A Vermilion Flycatcher was found on December 8th in fields near Williamston and has persisted there through at least December 15th. This splendid little scarlet bird is normally a resident of Mexico, Texas, and western areas of South America. But during the last week, one individual has been perching on wires and twigs, catching insects in Martin County pastures.

Seen across a field, when perched it looks like nothing so much as a brightly reflective driveway marker — or, when zipping around after a winged bug, it resembles the dancing dot of a laser pointer. There are only a handful of North Carolina records for the Vermilion Flycatcher. As always, what birders love about late autumn is the amazing “accidentals” that show up along the east coast.

Neil Woolard of Washington Park got in touch with me last week to report that a large black bear disassembled several hundred dollars worth of bird feeders in his yard and consumed a lot of good birdseed, leaving only some noteworthy manure as a gratuity. Mr. Woolard saw the bear on a subsequent night as it investigated his garage and he estimated it weighed 300 or 400 pounds. This would be a plenty big bear, although well short of the “black Volkswagen” size category of bears that are present on the Albemarle-Pamlico peninsula a bit northeast of here.

On pilings and docks along the Pamlico, Ring-billed Gulls have moved in, and Laughing Gulls have moved out. The Ring-Billed is the dominant winter gull species of our area. Laughing Gulls have migrated to warmer areas but they’ll be back in the spring with their cackling calls and black hoods, making up our area’s dominant summertime gull.

A Pine Siskin was seen on December 13 in Pamlico Plantation. Siskins are yet another of the irruptive species that are swarming North Carolina this fall. Other irruptive species — which have been occurring here and elsewhere in North Carolina this fall due to unusual conditions in their northern U.S. habitat — are Red-Breasted Nuthatch and Purple Finch.

Betsy Kane is a Washington resident who enjoys the outdoors.