These Woods Are Never Quiet
The brilliance of autumn has come and gone, but the woods are still alive with color – color in the form of feathers and fur. With most of the leaves gone, finding those flighty little songbirds is a lot easier. The birds make it easier still by forming mixed flocks that move through the woods en masse as they search for food. Typically, mixed feeding flocks con- sist mainly of our year-resident spe- cies like Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches and northern cardinals. The locals are often joined by “snowbirds” from the North, including yellow-bellied sapsuckers, dark-eyed juncos, hermit thrushes and golden-crowned kinglets who take advantage of the resident birds’ knowledge of the land. You may walk a goodly way in between sightings during a November bird hike at the park, but when you do find them, there will be lots of individuals and plenty of diversity. Out on Lake James itself the bird- ing can be excellent for migratory waterfowl. Last month, we saw large numbers of blue-winged teal move through the area, and while the teal have moved on by now, they’ve been replaced by other ducks like Ameri- can wigeon, northern shoveler, gad- wall, bufflehead and the occasional American black duck. Spotting ducks on large bodies of water like Lake James can be difficult.
Some of the best lookouts include the top of the stairs at the Paddy’s Creek Area swim beach, the boat ramp at Canal Bridge Boat Access and Sandy Cliff Overlook at the Catawba River Area.
Reports from up and down the East Coast suggest this was an excel- lent year to see migrating monarch butterflies and we certainly saw evidence of that at the state park. The ranger and maintenance staff have been hard at work this fall transplanting native wildflowers into the landscaping beds around the Paddy’s Creek Area bathhouse and picnic shelters. Hopefully, it will pay off next fall when the monarchs return and are looking for nectar.
The river otter(s) living in and around Paddy’s Creek put on a nice show during October, with several sightings coming in from day-hik- ers and ranger-led outings. Your best bet for catching a glimpse of these charismatic critters is a quiet walk along the Paddy’s Creek Trail.
Hope to see you out on the trail!