After a day waiting for four bluebirds to fledge (next blog!) and a health-care appointment, I decided to forego some chores and instead to spend some time at a bridge over Bolin Creek, a waterway in the local Carolina North Forest which belongs to the University of North Carolina. My naturalist friend Mary discovered that this spot is a favorite bathing spot for birds in the late afternoon and evening. Since the weather forecasters predicted rain most afternoons this week, I decided to make a quick foray there while I had the chance. I knew that photographing the wildlife could be difficult as the sky was dull, overcast and we were expecting a downpour but I was up for the challenge. And once in a while a bit of brightness emerged from behind the clouds to give me some encouragement.
At first, it seemed very quiet – no bird song or buzzing insects; I thought perhaps everyone was hunkering down in anticipation of a coming rainstorm. But then the sky lightened a bit and a handsome robber fly (Promachus) alighted on a nearby leaf. I think this is a red-footed cannibal fly; these insects look like little old men to me.
A little while later, there were suddenly three avian visitors. The female Eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) was the first to take a bath.
The blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) didn’t go to the water but flitted overhead.
The first of two American redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla) also hopped from branch to branch but eventually ducked behind some rocks to bathe.
A pair of damselflies hung out on the stream rocks; the blue-tipped dancer’s (Argia tibialis) dark purple made it look almost black in the twilight.
Then a beautiful female hooded warbler (Setophaga citrina) came by for a bath. Her golden feathers shone in the dark foliage and against the stream rocks.
A pair of gray catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) came together but only one entered the stream for a thorough drenching of its plumage.
The redstarts returned but stayed on the branches as the daylight began leaking away.
A few other birds were in the vicinity but didn’t come near: American crows, Northern cardinals, a common grackle and two yellow-billed cuckoos. My visit ended when the sky really darkened — I started down the path in an effort to reach my car before the rain began. A Southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) crossed in front of me and paused in the grass, enabling me to get a quick portrait. And then a nettle of beautiful violet color called out for a photo, too. I made it to the car just as the first raindrops fell. Quite an enjoyable impromptu photography session!