Thursday, January 29, 2015

Day 3 - Outer Banks Birding Trip - Cedar Island and Harkers Island

At the crack of dawn, we piled into the bus and headed for our next stop which was the ferry from Ocracoke to Cedar Island which is a 2 1/2 hour ride.  We hoped to see some loons and Northern Gannets on this ride.  It was a beautiful day finally!!  These are a group of Mallards right by the ferry.

I looked up and saw a flock of Tri-colored Herons flying overhead -- not a bird I am used to seeing in a flock!

I didn't see the Common Loon that some saw but this is a picture of one from the Coast Garden Station on that miserable Saturday.  He was swimming alongside a Red-breasted Merganser.

This is a Greater Black-backed Gull who was flying along the thermals with the ferry.

 He landed in the water here.

 This is a side view of the Greater Black-backed Gull.

These I believe are Herring Gulls who followed after us as well.

As we headed into the ferry terminal, I spotted this Red-breasted Merganser standing on the rocks by the jetty.  She was really far away.

We headed to the Cedar Island NWR but didn't spot anything but flocks overhead but hard to identify.  This is a look at the large Sawgrass marshes though.

Next on our agenda was Harkers Island and we spotted this beautiful Red-headed Duck by the marina.  You can see my camera has completely unfogged here but the ability to change settings is gone so into the camera shop it will go to see if it can be fixed.  If not, a new camera body is in my future.  

Another view of the Redhead.

I can't remember now but I think it was at Cedar Island that I saw my first Canvasback.  The light was not ideal and she was far away but here she is among a flock of American Coots.

She took a stretch here.

We saw a Common Yellowthroat here but this is a picture from Mattamuskeet as you couldn't see much of the bird in my picture from Cedar Island.

We took a walk around a pond at Harkers Island but really didn't see anything at all but the scenery was beautiful and you can see the bright blue sky reflected in this untouched photo!

Another view of the pond!

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!!).

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Outer Banks Birding Trip - Day 1 - Mattamuskeet and Pocosin NWR

Although this was not a black bear adventure, we were greeted right off the bat with sightings of five bears, four of them in this group of the mama bear and three cubs.  

We started out very early in the morning -- we had to be at the bus by 4:45 so that we would get north near dawn.  The day was cloudy but luckily the rain held off until very late in the afternoon.

We didn't get there earlier enough to see the Snow Geese take off from Pungo Lake, but we did see a lot flying overhead.  These, however, are the Tundra Swans which were there in abundance.

This was an amazing sight.  These are all Red-winged Blackbirds!! The sky was just black with them in this huge flocks of 1000's.  I had seen a small flock on the last trip but this was astonishing.

If you look closely in this blowup, you can see the red wings.  There are probably other birds in here as well but they were just too far away.

This is just one of many juvenile Bald Eagles that we saw.  We didn't see any mature ones this trip but did see lots of Northern Harriers.

This is a flock of American Widgeons that we saw fly overhead at Pocosin.

This Downy Woodpecker politely posed for us in two different locations while we snapped away.

This is the panoramic view across Pungo Lake.  The white line you see plus the white in the far background are the Snow Geese.  We saw flock after flock descending back into the lake.  Tundra Swans are in the foreground.

Onward to Lake Mattamuskeet where there were lots and lots of ducks in the marshy ponds.  Here are Gadwalls in the foreground.  It was a very grey day.

There were lots and lots of Northern Shovelers.  Here are both males and females dabbling.

One of the Shoveler Drakes stretching a bit.

A beatiful female and male Blue-winged Teal.  There were quite a few of these as well.  There were also Green-winged Teals which I finally got to see through the scope although too far away for decent pictures.

Some of the Shovelers took off here.

A nice little Ruddy Duck swam by in the calm water.

This will give you an idea of how many ducks were out there on the water intermixed with the Tundra Swans.  Good thing we had a scope and telephoto lens'.

We tried to see the Short-eared Owls at Alligator River but they were not to be found on this dreary night.  The Harriers hunt during the day but are replaced by the Short-eared Owls at dusk.  We then headed into Manteo for dinner and on to Nags Head for our sleep.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Quilting the Hated Quilt!

Well, I truly disliked working on this quilt and was dreading quilting it as there was no easy transportation to get from one area to another.  I somehow managed to baste it while it was hanging on the design walls and that was just more torture from this quilt that I really don't think shows all the effort and time that went into it.  As I have said before, not much bang for the buck!

Anyway, after finishing the quilting on the other quilt and the Professional Tote, this was the only thing left in my "to be done" queue.  I had decided how I was going to quilt it and was going back and forth with myself about what color thread to use.  I chickened out and decided to use white thread (the back is off white) as I was going to be quilting in the white areas.  My other thought was the purple of the lattice or even lime green.

I figured I would do a couple of blocks around the edges to see how it looked before I went too far.  I did not  use the quilting that was in the book as I didn't like that at all.

Hopefully you can see the quilting here.  I did quite a few blocks and I must say that this has been by far my favorite part of this quilt!!  I am enjoying the quilting a lot even though it is repetitious.  For some reason it is soothing rather than boring.  I actually did about a quarter of the quilt this afternoon!  I think I have decided to go with purple in the blocks around the outside although I am not committed to this  yet.  It would kind of give it a border effect.  There are no borders on the quilt but I may add one after I am done the quilting.

A closer look at the quilting.  You can see kind of a flower in the squares and a loop somewhat mimicking the old ribbon candy from years past.  I am also free hand quilting in the ditch around each of the white areas.  I think I am going to leave the colored areas alone unless they scream out to me at the end!

I did find this picture on my camera of the "not quite finished" Professional Tote with my mineral quilt in the background.  It gives a better view of the almost completed bag.  It is a lot darker than the picture shows because of the light shining off the faux suede.