By Sally O’Byrne, Teacher Naturalist
As part of the Rusty Blackbird Blitz which is an international effort to track down Rusty Blackbirds in their spring migration, I have been searching Banning Park., off of Maryland Ave in Wilmington. Banning, not usually thought of as a ‘nature hotspot’has proven to be a popular spot for the ‘Rusties’, most likely one of the best in the state. Read more about the Blitz here in a previous post to this blog.
Much of Banning Park is playing fields and picnic grounds, but there are also two ponds and a mature deciduous woodland. The larger pond is bordered by the Amtrack RR line on one side and deciduous woodlands on two sides. The last ‘side’is a fisherman’s parking lot. Along the back end of the pond, there is a wooded wetland, created by a stream that meanders through the woodland.
In the past couple of years, a family of beaver have set up lodging, with a major dam now flooding areas that were just boggy, and many of trees chewed off or showing chew marks – can you find the beaver lodge in the photo?
I first noticed Rusty Blackbirds here one or two years ago, so knew that this was a place to check-out during the Blitz. On every visit I have made here since the March 7th, I have had at least 10 Rusty Blackbirds. On April 2, I had a flock of 35 fly up into a tree where I could easily count them. When I hike into the wet areas and sit quietly, the Rusty Blackbirds fly in and start to flip leaves as they walk along the edges of the water.
Even though the wet boggy areas seem to be their preferred habitat, I have also seen them sitting in the tops of trees around the pond, and one day, I had a large group settle into the grass between the fishermen and the Amtrak line. The many park visitors have no idea that they are being visited by such a rare and sought after group of birds!