My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Winter Home: First Impressions

I arrived at my winter home last Monday. I'll be working at two refuges managed together, Pea Island NWR and Alligator River NWR.  Actually, I'll be mostly working at the Visitor Center in Mantaeo, NC and the one on the Pea Island NWR. I spent the weekend camping north of the refuges and paddling with a blogger friend. I had a problem finding the Visitor Center which serves serves several refuges along the North Carolina coast. That is because the street is actually their driveway and thus not recognized by my GPS. And asking for directions didn't work well either because I was asking for the refuge, not that visitor center.  And the two are several miles apart. So I spent some time casting about before I stumbled on signs to it.

There I met my new boss Tracy and several of the volunteers and staff. Tracy had me fill out some of my paperwork and gave me my work shirts - the light blue ones I've been coveting for years. The visitor center is only three years old and has beautiful displays of life along the Atlantic ocean and in the marches behind the dunes. I didn't take any pictures, so you'll have to wait to see pictures.  But soon I was following her to my bunkhouse. We drove back north  to South Nags Head and stopped at one of the beach houses - albeit one that had four or five houses between it and the ocean.  Then I found out THIS was the bunkhouse and I would usually be the only person here except for an intern that comes in on the weekends and for the RV volunteers that come to wash their clothes and use the Internet.  This is the nicest house  I've even lived in and I'm sure I'll enjoy living here.

There are views to the east, south, and west and also decks on all those sides.  I also have a screened-in room on the south side.  I can see the sun coming up over the Atlantic, with house shapes siluetted against it, and also see the sun set over Pimlico Sound.  The only drawback is that the basement, which houses two sets of washer/driers and is now storing my bike, is on the ground level.  Fourteen steps up is the door that goes into the hall leading to the 4 bedrooms, and two baths. Then it is another fifteen steps up to the open room that has the living, dining and kitchen areas.

I'm also in the smallest room I've ever tried to squeeze into and the kitchen also has a lot of wasted space. Between trying to find  places for what I bring in, before bringing in more, and needing to take lots of breaks from climbing stairs under burdens, I'm moving in very slowly.  But I do have all my big boxes out of the car and only need to pack up canned goods and bits and pieces. And I've ordered in some organizational tools - stacking bins, drawer dividers, and will soon get my current mess hidden.


I picked this bedroom because it has the most floor and wall space

The living area taken from the east side

And then turning to shoot down into the kitchen which has two big refrigerators

The view off my back deck

My ocean view - this probably was at 400 mm

My first sunset over Pimlico Sound and taken off my back deck

Tuesday I got up early and got the essential groceries, then quickly made breakfast.  My boss arrived at 9:00 A.M. to take me on a tour of both refuges. I got to see the Pea Island Visitor Center, and chat with a couple that also has spent a lot of time at Anahuac NWR which is where I began my volunteering career.  Pea Island also had National Parks land adjacent to our land and we actually have visitors use their restrooms.  The refuge overlooks a pond and there are three telescopes set up in the visitor center to look at the distant birds.  That morning the bird du jour was the American white pelican.  There were hundreds of them there along with a few other species, including double crested cormorants and a few ducks, too far away for me to identify.

Then we had to drive several more miles to get to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.  There we saw the fields were just starting to be flooded by the  pumps.  Tracy said that, the fall had been so wet, the farmers who grow corn in the summer and leave some behind for the swans, geese and ducks could not get the harvest in until just recently. I saw a pond full of tundra swans with a few mallards milling around among them. Otherwise, there were not many birds present.  But that should all change, culminating in the most birds here next January.

My first sunrise, taken from my side deck looking toward the Alantic Ocean

About a fourth of the tundra swans on the pond

I zoomed on the closest swans

Mallard ducks and swans

Today I'll work at the visitor center in Manteo all day, getting trained.  Then I'll be off on Thursday and Friday, before going down to train at the Pea Island Visitor Center. Friday I plan to go on a bird walk at Pea Island and then go to another site, supposed to be good for birds. I'll also have to go shopping for storage stuff to help me shoehorn into my room and the kitchen cabinets.  I'm going to be busy for several weeks just enjoying places on the Outer Banks. I looks like I'll be having a great winter.