Monday, February 16, 2015

Winter Birding in North Carolina

February 9th - 12th
Mute Swans at Lake Mattamuskeet, North Carolina

With some encouragement from a co-worker, I set-up a three day trip to North Carolina. I had a long standing goal to see the wintering masses of  swans and geese that congregate in the Carolinas. But have been putting it off for some time. So with a little push, I pulled the trigger.

While planning this trip, I expanded the itinerary to include venues around Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks. Stayed at a hotel on the beach near Kitty Hawk. Being off-season the rates were very good.

Day One - Virginia

Bufflehead at Pleasure House Point - Virginia Beach
Arrived in Norfolk, Virginia  just past noon and was at my first venue within the hour. Checked out Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach. A good spot for waterfowl and passerines. Lots of Buffleheads and Gadwalls, plus American Wigeons, Red-breasted Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks, Cormorants, Bonaparte's Gulls, Great Black Back Gulls, Carolina Chickadees, and Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow at Pleasure House Point, Virginia Beach

Bonaparte's Gull at Grandview Nature Preserve, Hampton, Virginia

Then onto Grandview Nature Preserve in Hampton, Virginia. The preserve stretches along several miles of coast line and was an excellent spot for viewing sea ducks.  The weather conditions were a bit rough with temps in the thirties, overcast skies and gusty winds. The wetlands that sit between the street parking and the beach held Canada Geese, Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers, American Black Ducks and Mallards.  At the beach I had a Lifer in sighting several Red-throated Loons. Also had a suspected red-necked grebe. Did have a lone Horned Grebe, many Ringed-billed, Bonaparte's and Great Black Backed Gulls and all three Scoters. Lots of Buffleheads, plus a small flock of Long-tailed Ducks flying-in to join a few Common Goldeneye.  Also large numbers of Sanderlings and Dunlin.  The much hoped for snow buntings and lapwing longspurs were not present at the expected location.  Perhaps due to the presence of a hunting Northern Harrier

Day Two - North Carolina

The weather conditions for the day have worsen. Colder, windier with a very heavy surf. On this day I visited two new venues. Mattamuskeet NWR in Hyde County, NC and Pettigrew SP in Creswell, NC. Before reaching the refuge several hard flocks of Snow Geese and Tundra Swans were seen resting in farm fields. The refuge features lots of Canada Geese, Tundra Swans, Mallards, Northern Pintails,  Northern Shovelers, American Coots, Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, American Black Ducks, Greater Yellowlegs, DC Cormorants, Great Egrets, Northern Harriers, a Cackling Goose and even a pair of Mute Swans. One nice sighting was a mixed flock of birds including Carolina Chickadees, Cardinals, Downy Woodpecker, Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Fox Sparrow and American Robins.

Tundra Swans at Mattamuskeet NWR

Northern Pintail

Tundra Swan

Canada Goose

Tundra Swans at rest in Farm Field - North Carolina

At Pettigrew, spent time on the very cold but birdy boardwalk at the boat launch location. More Robins and several Sparrows including White-throated, Savannah, Swamp Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. Also Carolina Chickadees, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmice, Cardinals, Blue Jays, American Kestrel and Sharp-shinned Hawk. Even flushed an American Woodcock. No waterfowl could be seen on the choppy lake.

Swamp Sparrow at Pettigrew State Park

Dark-eyed Junco at Pettigrew State Park

Day Three - The Outer Banks

Nasty weather conditions continue. Visited two new venues today. Currituck Heritage Park in  Corolla, NC and a drive south on the Outer Banks terminating at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

White Ibis at Currituck
 in Buxton, NC. At Currituck I had many of the same waterfowl - Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, Buffleheads, Red-breasted Mergansers, American Wigeons and Mallard hybrids, More Ring-billed Gulls, White Ibis and Savannah Sparrows. On the drive out to Cape Hatteras saw hundreds of Snow Geese flying northward. The wetlands area at the lighthouse featured more Canada Geese, Mallards, American Black Ducks, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, Green-winged Teal and a Wilson's Snipe   

A surprise find of a water moccasin on a cold day at Currituck

Hybrid Mallards

American Robin

Song Sparrow

Whale Skull on Display at Currituck

Lighthouse at Currituck
Redhead at Hatteras Lighthouse

White-tailed Deer at Lighthouse

Snow Goose ( formerly Blue Goose)

Snow Geese

Great Black Back Gulls
Trip Species List (89)
Snow Goose
Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Tundra Swan
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Bald Eagle
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Wilson's Snipe
American Woodcock
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Forster's Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mrazek Pond - Everglades National Park

Tuesday February 3rd

Bob Pelkey and I visited several locations in and around Everglades National Park with the goal of finding wintering sparrows and White-tailed Kites. We had a nice start with finding a Merlin dining on some kind of dove.  But from then on it was  a slow day. Bob did get a fleeting look at the Kite outside of the Park entrance. Was able to add Common Mynas in Florida City. 

Mrazek Pond inside the Park a large flock of Green-winged Teal were present.

Roosting Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

Great Egret

Anhinga with a catfish dinner

Red-shouldered Hawk