Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Outer Banks Birding Trip -- Day 2 - the Outer Banks and RAIN!!

 As you can see the weather was beyond terrible for our second day of birding on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  I hadn't known that there were so many wildlife refuges despite having vacationed there for years.  All of these refuges are south of Nags Head and included Bodie Island (above the view from the lookout), Pea Island, Oregon Inlet, and Buxton Woods.  Most of the ducks in the picture are Red-headed Ducks.

Our first stop was the Bodie Island Lighthouse.  There is a bit of a shelter there so we were not standing in the pouring rain.  The light was beyond awful and all the speckles you see in the pictures is rain.  Despite that, we saw lots and lots of Northern Pintails including this nice male and female.

We also saw lots of American Avocets including these two who were fairly close -- notice all the raindrops!  It was very early in the morning and there was no light to speak of so a good thing that the birds are black and white!

Another of the Avocets standing in the shallow water.

One of the birders spotted this American Bittern in the high grass.  He actually was more visible than they usually are because the grass colors were not the usual tan.  The picture is not great but at least you can see him!
After returning to the bus with a damp camera, the day went downhill as my telephoto lens fogged up (as everyone's did) but mine did between the filter and the lens.  The filter has somehow gotten jammed on so I was out of luck for pictures except those I could get with my little
point and shoot camera. (I always have backup!!)

This is the Bodie Island Lighthouse.

We next stopped at the Coast Guard Station where we saw some gulls and a Lesser Yellowlegs.  We barely got out of the bus though as weather was terrible.

Not on the agenda, but we made a quick stop at the south end of the Oregon Inlet bridge where we spotted some Semi-palmated Plovers, Dunlins, Greater Yellowlegs and an Eastern Meadowlark.  It was pouring rain by now, my good camera had fogged over completely but I did get a couple of pictures with my "point and shoot".  These are the Dunlins.

Here is a closeup of one of the Dunlins.

He was quite a distance away but this is the Eastern Meadowlark.  Even without enhancement, you can see the bright yellow breast.  I haven't seen one of these since living in Batavia many years ago!

I did not venture any further as the rain was getting heavier but three of the group went closer to the water and spotted a Dovekie!!  This is a rare occurence close to shore in NC and was a Life bird for our wildlife leader, Andy Fairbanks.  I had seen one in late March in 2013 down at Ft. Fisher or I would have been really disappointed not to see this one!!

Next we headed to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge but the weather was too bad to trek the entire area but we were not disappointed in our sightings which resulted in a life bird for some of our party.  This was the second time this day we saw a large flock of Red-headed Ducks.  There were 1000's at Bodie Island out pretty far.  In the middle of this flock, however, you can see one lone Lesser Scaup.  He is a bit smaller than the Redheads and has a smaller (and black) head.  I also saw one lone female as well.
There was a large flock of Ruddy Ducks as well.

Here is a poor shot of the life bird for a few of our group -- a White Pelican.  I had no idea that some wintered in NC.  We saw quite a few of these huge birds.  I had seen many in Florida however and there are occasional sightings even more local to here.

Some Whitetails wandered by wondering what was going on!

This is the famous Cape Hatteras lighthouse located in Buxton.  Last year there was a Snowy Owl that spent quite a bit of time there.

After lunch in Buxton, we headed to the Cape Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry where we would spend the next hour before arriving at our motel in Ocracoke.

We saw quite a few Northern Gannets on our ferry ride.

The ferry blew its horn and this enormous flock of Cormorants flew out of the water!!  It looked like a black island.  There are certainly large flocks of birds this time of year in the Outer Banks.  The crossing was a little rough as you can see by the whitecaps.

Finally we arrived in beautiful Ocracoke just as the sky was beginning to clear.  We settled into our motel rooms and we headed out for dinner (my second blue crab cake dinner in two days!!).

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