Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Trip to Mattamuskeet and Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuges

Mattamuskeet and Pocosin are wildlife refuges in the northeastern part of North Carolina most famous for being the winter home of 75% of the world's population of Tundra Swans and 60,000 Snow Geese.  There is also incredible populations of Northern Pintails and other dabbling ducks.  Above you can see the work it takes for the Tundra Swans to take off.  The noise of the wing flapping can be heard over long distances.  This was at Pocosin Lakes.  

They are just gorgeous in the air and are constantly talking!

I had gone on this guided trip sponsored by the City of Wilmington and booked through Halyburton Park.  My oldest daughter and I had planned to go by ourselves as the trip was supposed to occur when i was in Fl.  However, because of the big storm, it was postponed and they were looking for more people.  It is always fun to take these trips despite the very early morning rising!!

This is one of the first birds we saw at Mattamuskeet (a large lake which is only about 3 feet deep).  It is not common to see these birds out where you can get good pictures.  This one darted in and out of the reeds (where they are almost invisible).  I had seen them before but this was the closest I have gotten.

Just a closeup of his face and feathers.

There were lots and lots of ducks at Mattamuskeet -- more than I think I have seen before.  Here are several Northern Pintails which I think are a gorgeous bird.

Here is a closeup although his tail is in the water.

This is a male and female Northern Shoveler -- another beautiful colorful duck with those huge bills.

These are male Ring-necked Ducks.  None of us has ever seen a ring around the neck but there is certainly one around the bill!

This a Northern Harrier who was chasing the ducks and forcing them into the air.  You can always tell when either these or the Bald Eagles are around!  The Northern Harrier is easy to identify by the wide white stripe on his tail.

We headed on the road that crosses the lake and spotted several Bonaparte Gulls which were standing still in the wind as they weren't strong enough to make much forward motion.  It was great for picture taking!

There were also several Forster's Terns hanging out with the Gulls having the same problem.

There were a lot of Coots both at Mattamuskeet and Pocosin Lakes.

For some reason, I mentioned to my friend John (who was in the back seat of the van with my daughter) that I was curious where he had gotten pictures of a Cattle Egret down here.  Right around the next corner, what should appear but a Cattle Egret.  It is about the size of a Snowy Egret but has a yellow shortened beak, is a little stubbier in stature and has faint beige feathers on its head.  They are normally found hanging out inland with cattle (what a surprise there...).  It was the first Cattle Egret I have seen outside of Florida.

We didn't see any bears this trip (it was pretty chilly) and missed seeing the bobcat and the river otters by just a little!  The bobcat was evidently stalking some Coots that had left the water at Mattamuskeet and the river otters were crossing the road in front of the second van (I was in the first) at Pocosin,  My daughter and I will return in the fall to see if we can see the bears who are most common when feeding for their winter naps.

Only four Snow geese were spotted altogether -- they seemed to have left VERY early this year, perhaps a better harbinger of early spring that the groundhog.  Last year we saw 1000's.  We also didn't see the Trumpeter Swans that some had seen but it may have been because the birds were backlit at Mattamuskeet.  We ran into others who had spotted them.  We also saw a few Bald Eagles and of course vultures -- both Turkey and Black.

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