Cleveland County; some fine spring birding

Published 2:50 pm Friday, March 22, 2013

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

Every year we make a pilgrimage just east of the mountains to Cleveland County, a predominantly rural and agricultural county set just south of the mountains. With a few old cotton gins and dilapidated barns around, this is a perfect area to find Barn Owls and other birds of open country habitats.

Again this year we had a spectacular spring day on our annual Barn Owl Venture.  We all met just this side of Shelby, NC early in the somewhat cold hours of the morning. Thankfully we were promised a gorgeous day in the mid ‘60’s.  We started our day exploring a stand of older trees that has in the past held Red-headed Woodpeckers. We did not find the woodpeckers, but did have a great start to the day with great views of several Fox Sparrows, a pair of singing Brown thrashers and both Kinglets.

A nearby farm pond surprised us with a large flock of Lesser Scaup along with 3 Gadwall and 1 single male Ring-necked Duck. A nearby very well-maintained Purple Martin colony of Purple Martins had at least 15 early arrivals which soared overhead and drank at the nearby pond.

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The village of Lattimore, just west of Shelby, is a beautiful and quiet collection of buildings that time has almost forgotten and the perfect base to explore the surrounding fields. Here we found some of the classic country birds that we were looking for such as Loggerhead Shrike, American Kestrel and White-crowned Sparrow. Lunch was back in down town Lattimore where we enjoyed our picnic lunch along the roadside on this beautiful spring day before heading across the county to Delight Road where we had good, but brief views of a pair of beautiful Barn Owls.