By Phil Bushnell, EPA Birdwatchers and the NIEHS Site Ecology Team/Wildlife and Industry Together (WAIT)
How many different types of birds do you think might live on the combined NIEHS/EPA RTP campus? As of June 2015, 124 different species of birds had been spotted on campus by a group of NIEHS and EPA birdwatchers. During the summer, many of the more common water birds leave campus. Remaining and presented here are some more obscure birds you might see around Discovery Lake this summer.
Green Herons are small football-shaped green birds with a brown throat and yellow bill on long yellow legs. You might find them sitting patiently for minnows in the shallows around the lake, and have been seen using twigs or other items as bait to lure in fish. Compared to the more common Great Crested Blue Heron, Green Herons are about half the size and much more reclusive.
Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
These little brown swallows are common over the lake as they swoop around fetching bugs from the air and surface of the lake. They chirp as they fly around and can be a challenge to keep in focus with binoculars. From below, these birds might even be mistaken for another common songbird around Discovery Lake, the Brown-Headed Nuthatch.
Perching birds, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers are small and elusive, but rather eye-catching in appearance. These energetic birds fly from tree to tree catching bugs for food, never slowing down. They will also take food from spider webs and use webbing for their small nests.
Eastern Kingbirds also catch flies, but are larger than the Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, and are often perched in the open along fences and treetops. With dark gray plumage and a bright white band across the tip of its tail feathers, these birds almost look like they did not receive the summer casual dress code and are wearing a formal suit around the lake each day.