Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Really Cold Blustery Day

Although the sun was shining brightly, the winds were probably at least 20 mph along the beach. I decided to see what I could see down at Ft. Fisher anyway both at the end and where the walking path is.  You can see all the white caps in the background here.  Without binoculars, it is really hard to pick out any birds in that kind of surf but luckily the Northern Gannets come closer to shore during this brisk weather so I was finally able to get some nice shots of them -- and there were a flock of them diving and flying.  They are a large bird with a wing span of about 27 inches and they look very regal.

Here you can clearly see his black tipped wings and his beige head.  I have seen a lot of these but none good enough to get anything but a picture for identification.

Another Gannet flying in the other direction.

This was a juvenile Gannet with his speckled wings.  I got a lot of good shots of him both from above and below!

I also headed down to the end of the island to see if the Hooded Mergansers, Horned Grebes or Oystercatchers were there.  The first bird I saw was this Red Breasted Merganser who moved away as soon as he spotted me.  He was having a bad hair day with all the wind!  I have seen these down here before but not this year.

There were a lot of Oystercatchers as well and I can't seem to get enough of this beautiful bird with his bright red-orange beak.  Warren said they were all over the stone wall at high tide the other day when he was out kayaking.

Here you see a couple of Oystercatchers, an Ibis and a Snowy Egret.

Last but certainly not least is a Forster's Tern.  I have seen a lot of these but they are always flying rapidly so I have had difficulty getting a picture to identify them for sure but this one did it!

In the morning of the super cold day, I again saw a phenomenon I have seen on several cool days -- rainbows in the clouds that spread out.  When the sun is low in the sky, it will produce "Sundogs" where the rainbows culminate in a couple of bright lights on the side of the sun.  This is caused by the ice crystals on the cold days.  I think I never saw them in Rochester as it is just so overcast all the time in winter where I am near Lake Ontario.  For fun, I just had Picasa take one of these pictures and applyed "I'm Feeling Lucky" to it which resulted in the picture below.
Now if I could just dye can see why this appealed to me!!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Another Quilt Done....Only Two to Go

As I don't have a decent design wall down here, had to photograph the latest "serendipity" quilt on the floor so it is a little askew.  I have even finished another except for the binding as the weather has been a little chilly for sitting outside and reading which is how I spend many days when the weather is nice!  The temps have actually been in the 30s a couple of mornings -- I am getting to be a whiny southerner about weather these days and would prefer not to have to break out my coat at all!

We have had some beautiful sunny days though which did allow me to get pictures of some birds that I hadn't gotten good pictures of before as well as seeing some of my old favorites again.  A lot of those pictures will be in my next blog with hopefully the next finished quilt!

This is one of the frequently seen sparrows down here -- the Savannah Sparrow which I have seen each winter.  He seems to be building a nest somewhere.

Can't believe I saw another Kingfisher, this one down at Ft. Fisher where I see my Oystercatchers!  It is another male.  They are turning into what my BIL calls "flivers" or frequently seen birds not worth taking pictures of!!

The other day I spotted this juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron on a perfectly beautiful day sitting up in a tree.  A treat to see one awake while it is still light out.

I even got a good enough photo so you can see a closeup of his beak and eye here.

Even the Boat Tailed Grackles are pretty on a nice day.  Here are Heckel and Jeckel down at Ft. Fisher.

This is a collage of pictures I took of the live oaks and the path down at Ft. Fisher.  I love the curves and color of this canopy of trees.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Third Day of Perfect Weather!

 A few years of trying to get a good picture of a Kingfisher and this is the third time this year, I have seen them closely and I have seen them a couple of other times as well.  They are soon becoming what my BIL Bill calls "flivers" or birds frequently seen and not worth photographing!  I do think they are an interesting looking bird though.

We had one of those incredible warm days down here and took the ferry down to Southport NC to have lunch with an old school friend and his wife who live just south of here.  Southport is a beautiful little town with a very New England look.  A new movie called Safe Haven was filmed there last summer.  Although not a movie I would probably go to otherwise, we ate at a little coastal restaurant  (The Fishy Fishy Cafe and outside  as it was so nice) that was right next to where some of the filming took place.  The food and the company were excellent!!  This is the ferry coming in the opposite direction down the Cape Fear River which separates the island I live on from Southport.  It is about a four mile (or half hour trip) and today was perfect -- short sleeves only!!

I had to take a picture of this stone jetty which I find fascinating.  It is miles long and runs along the Cape Fear River and connects to a couple of the islands.  It was built in the late 1800s to protect the river from shoal build up which would inhibit  ship traffic down the river.  It blocked a former inlet  used by the Rebels during the Civil War.  At low tide, you can walk quite a distance.  At high tide it is covered with Oystercatchers. 
It is right next to where I have taken pictures of the Oystercatchers.The stone wall is called "The Rocks" and the area where I see the birds sometimes at low tide in the late afternoon is called the Basin -- really a little estuary.

They have started filling up the lake at Carolina Beach again so hopefully some of the ducks who have left will return.  It was pretty empty today except for the usual Mallards and Coots.  I can't help but take pictures of these beautiful Great Egrets though especially when they pose in such an attractive location.

Another picture of my Kingfisher -- I didn't even have to crop but a tiny bit!!  I believe it is a male as I don't see any sign of the lower brown striping.  He just wanted to pose in profile.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Oystercatchers at Low Tide

 Still in search of the Great Horned Owl, I headed back to Carolina Beach State Park the other day but didn't even hear him this time.  However, it was late afternoon on a sunny day and I thought the vegetation was really beautiful so snapped a couple of photos so you can get an idea of what a nice walk it is.  It is wooded and swampy in areas with little bridges to take you over the swampy part.  I am always amazed that I don't hear more bird sounds though as it is such a nice patch of woods.

 Lots of reflections in the swampy area here.

 The Lake remains drained and more so than I saw it two years ago.  I am sure that every Ibis in southeastern NC has congregated there as I have counted at least fifty the last couple of days.  There are always egrets and herons there now as well.  A few Scaups remain but even the Hooded Merganser has deserted.  The Coots are all making do though I think the population is about half of what it was last year.

I try to stop down at Ft. Fisher each day to see if there is anything interesting.  The Red Throated Loon was down there diving in some pretty rough waves so it was difficult to get a good picture -- just enough to be recognizable.

I also head down the end of the island to see if I can spot the Oystercatchers on a nicer day.  I am still having to look into the sun as it is late in the day but was pleased to find not only Oystercatchers (one of my favorite birds with their bright red bills) but several other birds as well.  Some I didn't see  until I reviewed my pictures when I got home.  They are all pretty far away so it is hard to see what you have!

I was very pleased to see my Marbled Godwit again although he was really far away and flew off pretty quickly.  One day I will get a good picture!!

I noticed this Yellowlegs in my pictures when I got home! Too bad I didn't take more pictures.  I don't know whether it is a Greater or Lesser but suspect it is a Lesser Yellowlegs.

I was taking a picture of the gull in the middle here which is a Herring Gull but noticed a Red Breasted Merganser in the background!!

There were lots of Oystercatchers yesterday when I went down there.  Low tide was supposed to have been a couple of hours earlier but I suspect it is quite a bit later here in the sound.

What a handsome bird!!

One facing forward and one the rear view!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

In Search of the Great Horned Owl

I headed down to Carolina Beach Lake again to see if anything new had shown up.  I couldn't help taking a picture of these beautiful female Lesser Scaups as they were quite close and the weather was beautiful.

The nice Tricolor Heron was there again posing for pictures and getting dinner.
I ran into Bruce and another gentleman at the Lake and they were doing the Christmas bird count.  This Turkey Vulture and two friends came to the lake right after he left -- do they deserve to be in the count?

When talking to the birders, I indicated that I hadn't seen any owls except for the Burrowing Owls in Fl.  They told me that there was a day roosting Great Horned Owl in Carolina Beach State Park.  After a couple of wrong paths, I found the path they had described and did hear the owl (where it was supposed to be) but alas I didn't see it and I didn't hear it again to determine exactly what tree he was in.  It was very late in the day. I was, however,  treated to four deer crossing the road in front of me in the Park and one stopped to pose.  I will be back.  I also talked to a woman in the park who indicated there is a special area that has been set up where the Painted Buntings congregate.  They probably aren't there this time of year but I will have to investigate before I leave!  I knew there were these buntings down here but so far haven't seen any but now I know a better spotting place!

Friday, January 4, 2013

They've Drained the Lake!

It was quite a surprise to drive by Carolina Beach Lake and find that it had been drained.  Two years ago when they did that, I saw a ton of birds (until the fish run out).  It was a gorgeous day for my walk and loved seeing the first of the Red Headed Ducks I have seen this year.  In the bright light, he has a nice red head for sure!

He was hanging out with the Coots.

I counted over 20 Ibis feeding in the shallows.

The tricks with the light made this look like an arctic scene to me but really  just the bright blue sky shining off the blackish mud.  That is a sleeping female mallard in the foreground.

The Long Tailed Duck is still hanging around.

As are the Lesser Scaup.

I was very surprised when I got home to discover there was a female Hooded Merganser that crept into a couple of my pictures.  I was taking a picture of the ibis taking off here.  The female Hooded Merganser is in the foreground.

Here I was taking a picture of the Pied Bill Grebe and there she was again, this time in the background.  I told a guy just as I was leaving that I had never seen a Hooded Merganser here -- turns out I lied!

This is the first time I have seen the little juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron up and about -- he also was feeding in the shallows and is wide awake.

Here is is from a different angle.

There were also a Great Blue Heron, a Great Egret, and a young Pelican.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One of My Favorites!

It was another very grey day down at Ft. Fisher but the parking lot was totally empty and I spotted a large flock of "ducks" so settled in to see what they were.  Turns out it was a rather large flock of Hooded Mergansers (one of my favorites), both males and females mixed in with a flock of Horned Grebes (which I had only seen one other time at Carolina Beach Lake).  It was very dark but you can get an idea of the coloring and marks.  This is the male Hooded Merganser with his crest up which they do when doing courtship moves -- I actually thought there were two different kinds of ducks initially as I didn't realize the crest went up and down, depending on their mood.  They begin their courtship patterns in mid-winter according to the Stokes.

Here is crest is down so you see  he does look a bit different.
Here are several of the males with one of the females who aren't as pretty.  There is also one of the Horned Grebes (kind of fuzzy) in the foreground.

You can see the females and two Horned Grebes in this picture.

This is my "one of each" picture with a male Merganser, female and then the Horned Grebe in front!

This gives a side view and a front view of the Hooded Merganser.

You can see how many Horned Grebes were there in this picture.  They were frequently under water.

I saw this behavior several times and couldn't quite figure out why they were laying on their sides like this.  They did this for awhile and they were in a bit of a feeding frenzy at the time.  As soon as I approached them, they swam way out but when I went back to my car and waited, they slowly came back into view.  I think the secret is to get down there when no one is around.  These were all at the foot of Ft. Fisher where the boar ramp is.

Not to be outdone, a male Kingfisher also came to visit!

A nice Tricolor Heron also came to visit along with a beautiful Snowy Egret (first one I have seen down here this year although a very common bird).

He was heading toward the Tricolor.

He was sitting up on the dock here and you can see his coloring clearly.
I am actually working on machine quilting another of the Serendipity quilts as sitting outside reading just isn't nice on these dreary "Rochester" days.  I have also been working on the hand quilting on the Baltimore Album and am starting to doubt that it will be done in time for the quilt show but another month should give me a better idea of timing.

It was a good birding day but not a good day for photography!!  These pictures were taken with the Canon SX40 with a zoom of about 88x (it has an optical zoom of 35X and then you can increase by using digital zoom).  They were just too far away for my good camera!

One of the female Hooded Mergansers came in a little closer early on so you can see a bit more detail here.