American Holly

American Holly
American Holly

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Volunteering for the Birds

March 22, 2016

My boss forwarded me a letter from the North Carolina FWS asking for volunteers to help put up signs for nesting birds on islands in the Sounds along the Outer Banks.  This was a chance to get to go out and see Pamlico Sound and also do something to help birds.  I immediately asked her to keep my schedule clear for the first two days of this job and volunteered.


The black-crowned night herons were just going to bed when I arrived at the marina

Monday turned out to be too windy and rainy to go, but the weather on Tuesday was perfect. And instead of starting at 10:00 A. M. we were to start at 7:00 A.M. It took us until nearly 8:00 o'clock to get two boats loaded and in the water. Then we all went down to the furthest island north, Island I, and learned what our leader wanted us to do and how far apart to set the posts and how deep to dig them.


Annika explains where we'll be going



This is "my" boat - we loaded it with out stuff, posts, signs, nails,  and post hole diggers

Our Captain


The lead boat captained by leader, Annika

I ended up in the smaller craft with three young guys. The two boats divided the islands up and our boat divided ourselves into two teams and worked different sides of the islands until we met up again.  My jobs consisted of nailing the signs on the posts while we were underway and carrying up to four posts plus a bag of signs, nails, and a hammer to just put the signs back on still-standing posts.  My partner carried both posts and a post hole digger and dug all the holes.  I helped fill the holes in using one of the posts as a tamper.

First stop to learn our jobs


The signs on their posts, ready to "plant"

The two boats each did four more islands.  We managed to get two days of planned work done in one day and left the state caught back up and ready to go down to Hatteras the following day.



Eli demonstrates his post hole digging prowess


We disturbed several Canada geese who were laying eggs - most had 4-6 eggs

The temperatures were just at the point where I needed my long johns under my nylon pants.  But by the time we had finished the second island I was burning up and stopped behind a bush and took them off.  I already had my jacket off and tied around my waist so draped them over my shoulders.  Then, I attempted to get to the boat through a patch of briars.  I had to turn around, to back  to the top of the island and take a different route to shore.  I got in the boat and realized I not longer had my long johns. Gallant Earl went back and tackled the really sharp briars and made them release my long johns.


My long john rescuer


Eli and I getting signs nailed to the posts during the rides between islands


We enjoyed a group of great egrets - this was the best of my captures



This little boat looked pretty settled in


I got to see Bodie Lighthouse from the water


We met back up with the other group for lunch


We were pretty hungry after four hours of work



We had a nice little sand bench to sit on


And were blessed by a bald eagle flyover



Earl volunteered to take our pictures when we were almost finished with this island


Earl and his (found) redhead


Michel is holding the front down to keep the motor high as Eli pushes us out


We had a wonderful time on the water and saw huge flocks of brown pelicans,  gulls, and cormorants. We also found several Canada geese nests with four to six eggs in them.  We watched an osprey carry a stick, and saw a pair of oystercatchers, and a large mixed flock of ruddy turnstones and sandpipers. We came back very close to the great horned owl that has been sitting on her eggs for about a month.  She is nesting on the channel marker right at the dock.



There were several hundred brown pelicans here



There were about 20 ruddy turnstones in this group



Sometimes the ski filled with pelicans


As we were leaving the last island, this juvenile kept flying with us and then landing near us - I think he has learned to beg from fishermen 


We all had a marvelous time except right at the end, when the larger boat found it had no power.  One of my teammates and I moved to it to let another volunteer couple go home.  Then my partner and the leader, both called their respective maintenance people and found and fixed the problem, a loose wire, allowing us all to get back to the dock before 5 o'clock.


Almost finished

The entire day felt like a playday, even though I walked at least one mile in shin deep water and walked a total of 7.5 miles. I felt good about keeping up with three guys, whose total age was almost the same as mine.  And glad to know that the birds using these islands for breeding would be undisturbed.