A quick turn around Lake Junaluska Easter Sunday afternoon found a good number of new migrants resting alongside some of the guests who have been here most of the fall and winter. Some of the old standbys from earlier this year included ruddy ducks (not as many as before), American coots, belted kingfisher, double-crested cormorant and pied-billed grebe. The number of pied-billeds, however, suggested that many were new to the lake.
There was also a group (a dozen or more) of horned grebes present, some starting to show a lot of breeding plumage. Common loons were also sporting their best breeding plumage.
A walk around the lake at dawn or dusk could result in hearing that wonderful loon yodel. I have heard them there before. There were a couple of pretty big rafts of ducks but I didn’t have my spotting scope or the time to scan them closely. I wish I had, though, because Connie Ward and Stan Wukowicz reported a female common golden eye a few days earlier.
I know the rafts contained lesser scaup, hooded mergansers and buffleheads. There were also a good number of blue-winged teal hanging out around the wetlands, and I heard a killdeer calling from the lawn of the visitor’s center. Also present were a large number of Bonaparte’s gulls. I talked with Bob Olthoff who said that he had counted at least 30 Bonaparte’s earlier that morning. There were a few ring-billed gulls hanging around too.
Some new summer residents have also arrived at Lake Junaluska. I saw tree swallows and northern rough-winged swallows. They’ve probably been in a while but this was my first trip around the lake in weeks.
Of course Lake Junaluska isn’t the only stopping place for migrants caught between fronts. Bob Olthoff reported that the Carolina Field Birders were rewarded with a lot of waterfowl over at Kituwah on the Saturday before Easter. They had some really good finds including sandhill cranes and common mergansers.
Olthoff also reported hearing a sora rail but the skulker didn’t show himself. There were blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, wood ducks and snipe also present at Kituwah along with great egrets. Olthoff said the group also had a merlin.
Junaluska and Kituwah didn’t provide a lot in the way of migrant songbirds this past weekend but they are showing up in the Carolinas. A quick peek at the Carolinabirds listserv showed blue-headed vireo in Black Mountain and pine warblers at Beaver Lake in Asheville. Some South Carolina reports from Huntington State Park and Congaree Swamp list yellow-throated warbler, black and white warbler, northern parula, white-eyed vireo and Louisiana waterthrush.
It’s time to dust off the binoculars, field guides and CDs and get outside. And remember to look up.