WILDATHON REPORT from Brian Bockhahn (Falls Lake SRA):

painted turtleI ended up having to go with my rain date of May 7, 2007, even though the forecast was cold and very windy. The low was 46 degrees and the high 71 and winds were continuous at 15-25 mph! Fortunately, the skies were clear and the sun prevailed to make critters active.

I started at 4 a.m. in my carport using night vision monocular to view an Eastern Phoebe on its nest. I watched as the mother looked at me and blinked, and then I recorded it as my first bird of the day. With the way the spring has been going I had a feeling I could break my record for 108 bird species in a day. I decided not to count up my total until the day’s end, just for suspense.

I saw a White-tailed Deer on the side of the road on the way to the north end of Beaverdam Lake. I checked some cover boards and quickly found a Black Racer, the most abundant animal of the day, tallying a total of 15!

4:20 a.m. and I had one bird, one mammal and one reptile, what would be next? Seconds later under another board was a Smooth Earth Snake! First for my Wildathon and a new park record, one I’ve been waiting to find! A pair of Great Horned Owls started calling, no doubt enjoying the cooler 46 degree temperature while I was wearing a hat and gloves!

The next few stops had plenty of calling nightjars, but I had no luck with the other two owl species. The skies were crystal clear and I knew the pre-dawn hours would be productive. At 5:25 a.m. the first Cardinal starting calling and other birds quickly joined in. I couldn’t find a Woodcock, but heard then saw a Northern Waterthrush, another first for my Wildathon.

I tallied some Bald Eagles from Sandling Beach, and then hit Woodpecker Ridge for a Turkey on nest, all five species of swallows and the majority of woodland birds. A flock of Cedar Waxwings was a nice surprise, along with my first record of a singing Veery.

Next I went to Brickhouse Road Waterfowl Impoundments for some birding by bike. I heard then saw my first Wildathon record of a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a wealth of other birds. Butterflies and dragonflies finally started showing up, including a first record of a Variable Dancer damselfly. I Biked by several Black Racers and checked some PVC pipes but didn’t find any tree frogs. I casually flipped some flood debris on the trail and found another first, a Northern Dusky Salamander! As the day warmed up I added some more insects, a Meadow Vole and then another small mammal jumped in front of my bike tire: an Eastern Chipmunk. It was only my second Wildathon record and only the third record for all of Falls Lake. I should have found all the sparrow species there, but the high winds made the field birds hide.

wzeb.jpgA quick bike down the Little River Waterfowl Impoundment added some floodplain species of butterflies; Carolina Satyr and Least Skipper. The Flat River Waterfowl Impoundment was still flooded, providing some great action. Over the open water all five species of swallows, Chimney Swift and Purple Martin were there, hawking insects! Two American Coots swam by for yet another new record. A lone Pied-billed Grebe and two Solitary Sandpipers were a welcome addition to my list. In a far ditch there were three Northern Water Snakes and one Red-bellied Water Snakes. At one of the Flat River boat ramps there was a singing Magnolia Warbler, another first.

I made my afternoon stop at Sandling Swim Beach to add a Bonaparte’s Gull, then checked my snake cover boards. Not many snakes, but I did find three species of Skinks and two Eastern Narrowmouth Toads! My PVC pipes still had no tree frogs, but the water treatment ponds had a few damselflies and both species of Sundragons. It’s a shame I couldn’t count Romeo the pet Mute Swan!

The afternoon was a series of quick stops, adding American Black Duck on Beaverdam Lake where I hoped for a Red-banded Water Snake (my Wildathon nemesis!). At Camp Kanata I found Eastern Meadowlark, but did not see the Shrikes present a few days ago. The small waterfall down in the camp had a lone Louisiana Waterthrush.

Next was a quick stop at the BW Wells gate where the newt pond had been cleared and filled in along the boundary! I wonder where the 300 plus newt larvae went to. I did see a Coopers Hawk nearby, making it my first Wildathon finding both accipiter species.

I made another quick stop at Shinleaf to search for salamanders along the Falls Lake Trail. No luck on herps, but a singing Swainson’s Thrush made it worth my while. A Belted Kingfisher was along Lick Creek as I searched for an eagle nest.

I spent dusk a Rollingview and was pleased to add a Semipalmated Sandpiper at the boat beach, another first! The lake still had whitecaps, but on the leeward side I was able to add another bird, a Common Loon. After dark I checked some snake cover boards there and quickly found three Southern Ringneck Snakes, a Black Racer and another black snake. When I went to move the last one with my snake stick I could see it’s head had a pointed snout and then it spread it’s neck out like a Cobra, and I knew then that it was an Eastern Hognose Snake, black phase.

The cold and wind continued and mammals were sparse except for a lone Opossum. At Brickhouse Road the amphibians were silent, but a pair of Barred Owls did respond back to my vocalizations. I drove back to Sandling Beach to find another Opossum and then worked hard to finally get an Eastern Screech Owl to answer me back. With almost nothing left to search for, I tallied up my birds and was astounded when I realized I broke my record, finding 112 birds since 4 a.m. I had several first record birds, one amphibian and one snake new to the Falls Lake list. Cold and wind burned, I called it a night after 20 hours, 3 miles of running, 8 miles of hiking, 13 miles of biking and 162 miles of driving.


MAMMALS 8 (Avg 9)

  • Whitetail Deer
  • Virginia Opossum
  • American Beaver
  • Eastern Cottontail
  • Grey Squirrel
  • Eastern Chipmonk
  • Meadow Vole
  • Eastern Red Bat

REPTILES 13 (Avg 10)

  • Eastern Fence Lizard
  • Five-lined Skink
  • Ground Skink
  • Southeastern Five-lined Skink
  • Southern Ringneck Snake
  • Black Rat Snake
  • Black Racer
  • Eastern Hognose Snake
  • Northern Water Snake
  • Redbelly Water Snake
  • Smooth Earth Snake
  • Painted Turtle
  • Yellowbelly Slider


  • American Toad
  • Fowler’s Toad
  • Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad
  • Northern Cricket Frog
  • Bullfrog
  • Green Frog
  • Southern Leopard Frog
  • Gray Treefrog
  • Northern Dusky Salamander


  • Pipevine Swallowtail
  • Zebra Swallowtail
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Spicebush Swallowtail
  • Cabbage White
  • Clouded Sulphur
  • Orange Sulphur
  • Sleepy Orange
  • Pearl Crescent
  • American Lady
  • Red Admiral
  • Common Buckeye
  • Red-Spotted Purple
  • Variegated Fritillary
  • Eastern Comma
  • Question Mark
  • Spring Azure
  • Carolina Satyr
  • Northern Cloudywing
  • Least Skipper
  • Fiery Skipper

ODONATES 15 (Avg 16)

  • Common Green Darner
  • Swamp Darner
  • Uhler’s Sundragon
  • Selys Sundragon
  • Eastern Pondhawk
  • Painted Skimmer
  • Spangled Skimmer
  • Common Whitetail
  • Blue Corporal
  • Blue Dasher
  • Lancet Clubtail
  • Eastern Forktail
  • Fragile Forktail
  • Powdered Dancer
  • Variable Dancer


  • Photinus consimilus

BIRDS 112 (Avg 102)

  • LOON, Common
  • GREBE, Pied-billed
  • CORMORANT, Double-crested
  • HERON, Great Blue
  • VULTURE, Black
  • Turkey
  • GOOSE, Canada
  • DUCK, Wood
  • DUCK, American Black
  • EAGLE, Bald
  • HAWK, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, Red-shouldered, Red-tailed
  • TURKEY, Wild
  • COOT, American
  • SANDPIPER, Solitary, Spotted
  • YELLOWLEGS, Lesser*
  • SANDPIPER, Semipalmated*
  • GULL, Ring-billed,Bonaparte’s
  • PIGEON, Rock
  • DOVE, Mourning
  • OWL, Eastern Screech, Great Horned, Barred
  • SWIFT, Chimney
  • HUMMINGBIRD, Ruby-throated
  • KINGFISHER, Belted
  • WOODPECKER, Red-headed, Red-bellied, Downy, Hairy
  • “Yellow-shafted” FLICKER
  • WOOD-PEWEE, Eastern
  • FLYCATCHER, Acadian
  • PHOEBE, Eastern
  • FLYCATCHER, Great Crested
  • KINGBIRD, Eastern
  • VIREO, White-eyed, Blue-headed, Yellow-throated, Red-eyed
  • JAY, Blue
  • CROW, American, Fish
  • SWALLOW, Tree,N. Rough-winged, Cliff, Barn,Bank
  • CHICKADEE, Carolina
  • TITMOUSE, Tufted
  • NUTHATCH, White-breasted, Brown-headed
  • WREN, Carolina
  • GNATCATCHER, Blue-gray
  • BLUEBIRD, Eastern
  • THRUSH, Swainson’s, Wood
  • ROBIN, American
  • CATBIRD, Gray
  • MOCKINGBIRD, Northern
  • THRASHER, Brown
  • STARLING, European
  • WAXWING, Cedar, N. Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped
  • WARBLER, Yellow-throated, Pine, Prairie, Black-and-white
  • American REDSTART
  • Prothonotary OVENBIRD
  • Northern WATERTHRUSH
  • Louisiana WATERTHRUSH, Kentucky
  • Common YELLOWTHROAT, Hooded
  • Yellow-breasted CHAT
  • TANAGER, Summer, Scarlet
  • TOWHEE, Eastern
  • SPARROW, Chipping, Field, Song, Swamp, White-throated
  • CARDINAL, Northern, Blue Grosbeak
  • BUNTING, Indigo
  • BLACKBIRD, Red-winged
  • MEADOWLARK, Eastern
  • GRACKLE, Common
  • COWBIRD, Brown-headed
  • ORIOLE, Orchard
  • FINCH, House
  • GOLDFINCH, American
  • SPARROW, House


  • Common Carp
  • Sunfish/Bream
  • Hickory Shad


  • Black Wooly Bear
  • Brown Wooly Bear
  • Eastern Tent Caterpillar

WILDFLOWERS (in bloom)

  • Bluets
  • Dandelion
  • Blackberry
  • White Clover
  • Red Clover


  • Common Black Ground Beetle
  • Six-spotted Green Tiger Beetle
  • Toad Bug
  • Forest Wolf Spider
  • Black Widow

REPORT from Brian Bockhahn (Falls Lake SRA)