My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Getting Acquainted with Coastal North Carolina

One of the first things I planned to at my winter home was to go birding.  My boss took me on a tour of two of the refuges in our complex last Tuesday, then I went on a birding "walk" last Friday. We met at the Pea Island Visitor Center which will be my favorite place to work. It looks out over a large pond much loved by wintering tundra swans, white pelicans, and hopefully soon, ducks. But last Friday, the winds were blowing at 30 mph and the sand - this is on the outer islands and only yards from the sandiness of the beach - was sandblasting my skin off. So all of us just stayed inside and used our binoculars and the three scopes located in the left - in the picture - end of the building and watched the few brave birds that tried to fly as well as lots of them sitting or feeding on the water.

Pea Island NWR Visitor Center

For a complete list of the birds we saw there, click here

All of them were too far for pictures but I managed to collect a few more pictures last week.

A few of what will soon be thousands of tundra swans - this taken at Alligator River Refuge

A closer view of a tundra swan 

Tundra swans on a field the refuge is flooding 

Swans on one of the Pea Island ponds
 While on the bird walk. we saw a lot of great black-backed gulls and at least one lesser black-backed gulls and even one ring-billed gull, a much smaller bird. But they were all too far away to photograph. These gulls were playing in a puddle at a marina between the refuge and my house.  I also found the plover and killdeer there.

At least the middle gull is a greater black-backed gull, I think

 This may be a third winter lesser black-backed gull - help please

I think this is an American golden plover due to both it's eye-stripe and body shape

The upiquitous killdeer

I trained with another volunteer couple at Pea Island Visitor Center last Saturday but arrived early enough to do a little birding.  This time the wind was only about 19 mph and I spend a lot of time enjoying a group of about 30 pelicans tightly feeding. I even took several movies of the water ballet they were performing.

Pelican pack

I think all of these are sub-adults, born this year

There is a patch of scrub oak at the beginning of the trail.  When I stood on the boardwalk, and pished, about 20 yellow-romped warblers, AKA butterbutts, popped up

We have an osprey platform in front of the visitor center. The nest was blown away in a
 storm and has not been rebuilt, but this eagle spends a lot of time there as well as a kingfisher. 

I also stopped at the Brodie Light house and got a little bit of sunset color in the clouds behind it but no birds.

Bodie Lighthouse - Click here for the history

I really wanted to find more incoming birds and, to that end, drove over 300 miles last Monday, and almost got stuck in the mud on a dirt road, and backed almost half a mile to avoid impassable mud. I finally starting seeing birds flying overhead at Pocosin Lakes NWR, but the road became impassible before I reached the lake. I passed another refuge in the dark on the way home. But we just had a big cold front come through, so I bet I'll soon be seeing lots more ducks. And we'll have 50,000 or more tundra swans scattered over four refuges. 

And soon after this comes out, I'll be on a paddle with my new paddling guru, another volunteer here. He was supposed to train me, but he mostly told me about all the paddling places around here and showed me his kayak and paddles.  I only have an open canoe, so may not be able to do a lot of his paddles but definitely can do some of them. Stay tuned. I'll also try to capture some of our black bears for you soon.  He called me to paddle today but I had to work.  He works tomorrow but will be off at 12:30. Can't wait. 

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you take the challenge to get outdoors Thanksgiving day - but in the wild, not the shopping mall. 

And for a REALLY interesting blog about helping to band terns and pelicans, check out my fellow volunteer's blog. 

And check on the picture to link to other Wild Bird Blogs from around the world.