Outer Banks Winter Trip Thrills 35 Birders!
Our Winter Trip covered a large amount of eastern North Carolina. Thirty-five intrepid birders from as far away as New Jersey headed for the Outer Banks onFriday the 13th . . . but the luck was ALL GOOD! Alligator River NWR was not on the "official" trip list but became a favorite "suggested"birding spot. Several stopped on the way down or back. Those that did were treated to hundreds of Tree Swallows feeding over the wetlands as well as rarities Golden Eagle and Northern Goshawk. Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers and American Kestrels were numerous. Merlins and American Bitterns also wer sighted. Waterfowl were abundant with Tundra Swans dominating the landscape.American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck and American Coot also were seen in abundance.
Saturday morning dawned sunny, cold and breezy. We met at the Audubon Pine Island Center and Sanctuary in Duck to begin our weekend of birding. Several in the group were privileged to stay at the 99-year-old lodge on the premises and found the accommodations delightful. Pine Island Director Mark Buckler gave a history of the Sanctuary and led us on a tour of the grounds. Many of the waterfowl seen at Alligator River also were seen here, plus Red-breasted Merganser, Forster's Tern and American Woodcock.
After lunch, we headed south for more birding with Mark leading the way. At Bodie Island Lighthouse, additional species included Redhead, Peregrine Falcon, SnowyEgret, and Clapper and King Rail. The group was so large that we split and reassembled several times on an impromptu basis. At Pea Island, the small pondat the visitor's center was the center of attention as an American Bittern entertained for well over an hour. The north pond was breached during Hurricane Irene and was mostly mudflats, but waders and peeps were fairly abundant. These included White Ibis, American Avocet, Dunlin, Greater Yellowlegs and Black-bellied Plover. On the ocean, there were good scope views of Northern Gannets and six Red-throated Loons. After a full day, birders hit a variety of restaurants from Kill Devil Hills to Duck for dinner.
Oregon Inlet Birders by Phil Dickinson
Sunday morning, Mark met us on the Hwy. 94 causeway that crosses Lake Mattamuskeet NWR. It was cold and windy, but Bald Eagles were putting on a show, while Peregrine and Bittern were flybys. Causeway warblers were Yellow-rumped, Pine,Palm and Common Yellowthroat. Later woodland observations of Orange-crowned Warblers made it a five-warbler day. As Ron Morris said, " not bad for a Sunday in January."
Mark arranged a special afternoon treat for many in the group: a Mattamuskeet Tram Tour to areas normally closed to the public. Kelly Davis was our guide and discussed the mission behind the refuge. She estimated that 75% of the Atlantic Flyway Pintail population winters at Mattamuskeet and nearby. We were not disappointed as each impoundment housed abundant Pintails and Tundra Swans, plus 50-60 Wilson's Snipes. Walking to the end of one dike, we were confronted with the awesome sight of 10-15,000 Snow Geese. About 5,000 took flight creating a spectacle that defies description.
Snow Goose Blizzard by Lois Schneider
The weather was a bit brisk but sunshine was plentiful, helping to make the weekend a big success. Special thanks go to Mark Buckler and his significant other,Cara, for leading our group through the entire weekend. They were a joy to be with, and we can count ourselves fortunate to have met them. Mark's and Cara's compliment to us: "Forsyth Audubon is one of the best, most enjoyable groups that we have had the pleasure to lead and socialize with." Final count for the weekend was 115 species.
Lastly,here are a few awards for trip participants:
Furthest Traveler - Hands down, Jane Prendergast. She came all the way from New Jersey. Thank you for joining us, Jane.
Independent Birder - No question, this is a tie between Jim Martin and Royce Hough. We never knew where or when we would cross paths with these guys, but it always was an enjoyable experience when we did.
Best Car Birder - The husband and wife team of Craig and Jane McCleary. They could spot a motionless Bittern at highway speeds.
Bird at Your Own Speed - Another slam duck team award for Cynthia Donaldson and Becky Clark.
Thanks to all who attended - Rob Rogers.
For more trip photos, visit our Photo Gallery and select the Outer Banks 2012 album.