Annual Memorial Day Bird Walk & Count
You could not find a better place or day for a bird walk than May 29, 2006 was at the Old City Cemetery. The cemetery with its birds, flowers and stately trees welcomes all visitors. Walk leader, Cinda Hurt, was joined by 21 enthusiastic birders for this Memorial Day Bird Walk. This was the largest group since the walks began in the year 2000.
Twenty-two species were observed. They were Vulture, Chimney Swift, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Flicker, Blue Jay, Tree Swallow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Bluebird, Robin, Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Starling, Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Grackle, House Finch, Gold Finch, Mourning Dove, and Pigeon.
The highest number of species on our previous walks was 29, found twice. We might have been disappointed with our count of 22 this year, but we were not. Many factors affect a count causing it to vary. The time of the day, weather, type of habitat, number of observers, and the purpose of the walk are all factors. The purpose of this Memorial Day Bird Walk is to honor and appreciate those who have served our country in the past. It is also a time to share our birding experience and knowledge with others. While doing this we find that many share their special expertise with us.
Many took time to enjoy the roses. Much information was exchanged as we walked past the antique roses along the Old Brick Wall. Discussions were heard about herbs such as rosemary, lavender, and yarrow found among the roses. That these herbs are deer repellents was good news to a few gardeners in the crowd. The beauty of the Rosa Mundi, whose history goes back to 1581 and earlier, was of special interest.
The walk began by checking the four bluebird boxes. We knew that three boxes had been in use this spring. A second nesting with eggs was found in box one. Box two contained young tree swallows. Everyone was able to get a good view of the tree swallow as it perched on the box demonstrating ownership. Jo Wood could not count the baby swallows, as parent bluebirds aided by a neighboring pair dived at Jo in an effort to chase her away from the nest box, and they succeeded. Boxes three and four were ready for new nests. A pair of bluebirds was seen at box four. The Lynchburg Bird Club’s Breeding Bird Count walkers found four bluebird eggs in box three and also in four, a few days later.
House wrens were discovered in two gourds. A wren was sitting on the nest in the first gourd. At another gourd, both adults were present and one was just coming with food as we walked up to the tree. We were very close to the gourd. What a scolding we received from the male as the female stood by the nest with food in her mouth. As we retreated from our face to face contact with the wrens the female started feeding and the male continued to reprimand the intruders.
Birds we have found on all seven of our walks are: Pigeons, Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Crow, Bluebird, and Mockingbird. Needless to say, we are pleased to count all birds, but some are greeted with more fervor than others. Birds we expect to see and have seen on all six walks include: Carolina Wren, Chimney Swift, Blue Jay, Robin, Mockingbird, and Brown Thrasher. There was an interesting dispute between the mockingbird and brown thrasher. This type of squabble is often seen near the ground, because both birds nest lower in shrubs and trees. However, this dispute occurred at tree top level.
Mallard, Broad-winged Hawk, Killdeer, Pewee, Ovenbird, and Chipping Sparrow are birds we have seen on only one walk. The fish crow was on each list until 2004. We missed him on the last three counts. He was heard this year on the Breeding Bird count. This more gregarious crow is easily recognized for his amusing call—cah or cah ah. The tree swallows first arrived in 2004 and soon discovered the bluebird boxes. They nested in a bluebird box then and have continued to nest in one every year since. Tree swallows are lovely birds, so we don’t mind them using a box. The house wrens also are fond of bluebird boxes. Fortunately, they prefer gourds, which makes bluebirds and people happy.
The final stop of the walk was at the pond and train station. Here we hoped to find our special bird of the day—the indigo bunting. He has been seen on four previous walks and we hoped to find him a fifth time. His song is a musical high pitched series of paired notes. The male indigo bunting is a beautiful color of blue and sings from the treetops and high wires. He can be heard from dawn through the heat of the day to dusk. The brown female is seldom seen as she builds the nests, cares for the eggs and then the young. If the male helps at all, it is to feed fledglings while the female begins a new family. We heard the male indigo singing from a treetop behind the train station, but could not locate him.
Jane White, the lady who makes good things happen at the cemetery, stopped at the pond to greet the birders. She opened the new chapel and columbarium inviting all who wished to visit the facility. As we finished our walk, some visited the chapel, and the remaining individuals continued to search for the indigo bunting. This time the search was successful and a few added a new life bird to their list.
We can’t say thank you enough to Jane White and staff, the Southern Memorial Association, and the city of Lynchburg for maintaining this Historic Landmark. The Old City Cemetery is a special place to birders and nature lovers.
Reported by Virginia Delaney, June 16, 2006