Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina

I decided this year to tackle the Outer Banks on my own as getting on and off the bus for the regular trip was getting to be a problem.  I can set my own pace driving myself and sit when I want to plus there is a lot less noise and more chance of seeing the birds.  One of my memories from before was of the 1000's of Red-headed Ducks that sit in the waters off the Outer Banks.  Here was a whole bunch that were just landing.  Twice I saw huge flocks in the air and they looked like starlings, there were so many!

I thought I would never get out in the morning.  I had packed everything up the night before and intended to get out at 6:30 but figured I wouldn't set the clock and just get up when I got up which was pretty close to the aforementioned time.  However, at the last minute I decided to take my little purse so transferred stuff from my regular purse.  Unfortunately, I discovered an hour and a half into the trip that the carefully sorted out the cards I didn't need (like library cards and Brueggers Rewards cards) were the pile I had bought with me instead of the credit cards, AAA , drivers license etc!!  Luckily I had a little cash and one debit card that I had decided not to take.  I had to have a picture id at the motel so he took my BJ's id card!!  Arghh.  Then there was a lot of road closures for construction and I never did get to Pungo Lake.  It was okay though.  It all worked out and I was careful not to speed too much!!  I also realized when I was about ready to get into the car that I had forgotten my cane so another trip up to the third floor, finding a cane without the rubber bottom and then searching for my good cane which I found on the first floor -- another arghh.  It took me an hour to finally get going!

The first day I went to Mattamuskeet.  The weather was cloudy which was perfect for this lake.  There were lots of ducks there including lots of Pintails, Gadwalls and Northern Shovelers.  There were lots of Tundra Swans as well -- certainly more than when I was there in Novermber.

This is a male Northern Shoveler which is one of my favorite winter ducks.

I drove the long way to the Outer Banks and took a short trip down to the Bodey Island Lighthouse before I checked into the hotel which was fairly close by.    There were a  lot of Northern Pintails there as well as Gadwalls and of course the Redheads!  The ducks were feeding constantly so the challenge was to get their heads above water!  Isn't this a beautiful duck?

This is just a small portion of the Redheads wihich are off in the distance interspersed with the Tundra Swans.  If you look really closely, you can see a few Canvasback Ducks among all the Redheads.

Here is a small group of the Pintails taken at Mattamuskeet.  The females are not as pretty.

Way way off in the distance, I spotted this Avocet dipping in the shallow water.

This is a Green-winged Teal which is not a bird I see that often and one that I have never gotten a photo of before.  I saw several of these at Bodey Island.

I also saw a lot of Gadwalls here at Bodey.  After Bodey, I drove down the coast to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge where I saw the rest of the birds here.  There is a beautiful path there and lots of benches to sit and just view all the birds.  I am always reminded of the abundance of wildlife I saw in East Africa (also why Yellowstone appeals to me so much) when I sit and view all the comings and goings here and the other locations in northeastern NC -- what a national treasure this area is.  It is a must see area in the winter for anyone interested in bird watching.  

I stayed overnight in Nags Head and had great views of both the sunrise and sunset from my hotel.  I headed out in the morning again and went first to Bodey Island Lighthouse and then headed down the coast to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge which certainly didn't disappoint!!

Here are just some of the many Tundra Swans wintering there.  I am not good enough to determine if there were any Trumpeter Swans in any of the locations and most of the swans were napping anyway.  I had fortunately seen the Trumpeters at Yellowstone last summer.  It is reported that 75% of the world's Tundra Swans winter in northeastern NC.  They don't seem to care whether it is fresh or salt water.

I saw one or two of many species here including this one Redhead close up.  

Here is a male Bufflehead sleeping and a Hooded Merganser, also a male.

I saw quite a few of the American Widgeons here.

Both here and Mattamuskeet had more than their fair share of American Coots!!  They seemed to be guarding the shoreline in both places.

A Little Blue Heron was fishing along the shoreline.  Not an uncommon bird, but I rarely see them down here.

I parked myself on a bench and watched as a flock of White Pelicans flew overhead.  They were not close which was the case for all the birds in my pictures -- thank goodness for telephoto lens!

One of the White Pelicans stayed for a long time and posed for me in every possible position.  This is the only place in NC that I have seen these magnificent birds.  They are huge!!

 As I was walking back to my car, a couple said they thought they had seen an American Bittern so I kept my eyes open and sure enough.  He was out of the reeds here and getting ready to pounce (which he did).  He then wandered back to the reeds and hiding again.

He's heading back here and you can hardly see him even here!  

All in all, it was a great trip and two days was perfect, giving me ample chance to see the places I wanted to see.  Finding places to eat was the biggest problem so I was glad I had packed a cooler with some snacks which held me over until I got home.  The weather couldn't have been better for either segment.  It was overcast for Mattamuskeet which made it much easier to see the birds and it was sunny and almost warm for the Outer Banks portion.  The last time I went, it was pouring rain and I almost totally ruined my camera.  Lisa and I are planning a trip together next January!!

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