01/19/07 — Watchers: Rare bird for area makes stop in county

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Watchers: Rare bird for area makes stop in county

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 19, 2007 1:47 PM

Mary Bridges knew the bird was rare for eastern North Carolina when she spotted it while walking after lunch Jan. 8.

Suspecting the chirper was a Says Phoebe, a semi-hardy insect eater that might not make it through the current cold snap, she called fellow bird-watcher Eric Dean.

Sure enough, it was a Says Phoebe, so-named because its call sounds like "says Phoebe" -- that was hanging out at a bluebird box looking for bugs.

"There's no way to know" how the bird ended up in Wayne County, said Dean, who is on the N.C. Rare Birds Record Committee. Sometimes birds follow unusual migration patterns -- or simply make a wrong turn, which is what Dean guesses happened to the little visitor.

Birdwatchers are meticulous about documenting these sightings, he said. This is only the third time a Says Phoebe has been documented in the area.

Dean had nature photographer Johnny Hill take some photos of the bird. Hill, who photographs various kinds of rare wildlife, joined the bird-watchers' blog -- at www.pbase.com -- in December.

"We have a good network," Dean said Thursday. "It's a real unusual bird. Two or three hours after we found it, people were already coming to look at it."

He said bird enthusiasts from all over the state have been coming to see the Says Phoebe every day since Ms. Bridges first spotted it.

And every afternoon, the little bird makes its rounds, looking for insects, which have been plentiful during Wayne County's recent warm weather.

But the temperatures dropped below freezing Wednesday night, leaving a layer of ice, and the bird watchers are worried the sudden cold might send the bird back on the road.

Dean said the Says Phoebe is just a "half-hearty" bird.

"It can't take a lot of cold weather," he said. "I don't know what this cold weather is going to do to him."