Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Trip Planning to Mattamuskeet

I have been waiting for fall (and the migrating waterfowl) to arrive to take a trip to Lake Mattamuskeet. I went back in the spring on an initial scouting trip with plans to go back. Tundra Swans come in by the thousands to winter around the lake and the other lakes that make up the "Pocosin Lakes". While there were plenty of Ibis and various other ducks, the sight of so many swans is suppose to be spectacular. The swans begin coming in around the middle of November.

Lake Mattamuskeet is the largest natural lake in North Carolina covering a little more than 40,000 acres with an average depth of only two feet. In 1916, the three story pump house was completed which at the time was the largest pumping station in the world pumping 1.2 millon gallons per minute. The attempt was to drain the lake and turn the area in to farm land.

After three different attempts that proved too costly, the pumping finally ended. In 1934 the federal government purchased the lake and created Lake Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. The Civilian Conservation Corps turned the pumping station in to a lodge that opened in 1937. After years of mismanaged hunting practices, when the waterfowl numbers decreased and the hunters stopped coming, the lodge closed in 1974. The building was placed on the National Registry of Historic places in 1981 and reopened in 1995 only to closed again in 2000 due to safety concerns with the building.

Currently the lodge is once again being renovated. With eco-tourism on the rise, hopefully it will succeed. I will put in on my to do list once it opens. The two photos are the front and back of the lodge that I took back in the spring.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bird Blind Progress

I made good progress on the bird blind Sunday. Other than a little camouflauge work to break up the square outline and decide where to cut the window flaps, the main blind is mostly completed. Let the ducks come. I wanted to get them finished before the waterfowl arrived. I cleared another small area where I am going to make a smaller blind. I will work on that area this coming weekend. The Kingfishers hang out in that area so I am hoping to get some good shots.

While I was working one Osprey was busy hunting on the lake and the one pictured was very successful. One three spearate occasions I saw it catch and take a fish back to the tree. Usually within a few minutes, a group of crows were harrasing it and attempting to take the fish. So many would gang up the bird would give up and fly away. By the time I stopped to take a few shots, the sun was not in a favorable location so the picture is not the greatest.

Hopefully there will be many more opportunities as the Osprey seem to have made themselves at home. The Cormorants have already started coming in and there are a few ducks coming in. The Mergansers usually arrive mid to late November. Not sure if the warm weather will throw the arrival times off.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday Activities

I finally had a chance to go out and test my new macro lens. It will take me a while to learn the in's and out's to get the desired results..... I guess that just means lots of picture taking.

The night was very cool so the dew was on everything this morning which provided some nice photo op's. I was taking a picture of something else and noticed this one drop on a blade of grass that was quivering just waiting to fall.

After walking in the park for a while, I went over to my parents. I had been wanting to fix a blind this year before the winter waterfowl begin arriving next month. I realized last year to get the good shots, you need to be hidden or the ducks spook. I settled on a location and went about clearing some low hanging branches and an area large enough for the blind. I wanted something easy to move if the location did not pan out even though during the summer I used that same area with good results in photographing deer around the lake.

Back during the summer, I had already cut and dry fitted the PVC pipe. Too many snakes at that time to get deep in the weeds to clear out however. I set it up and spray painted it with a soft olive green that looked natural. I took the dead limbs and some green I had cut to open the view and placed them around three sides of the bottom to break up the straight lines.
Lake views show left and right looking out from the blind. The lower end of the lake in the cove area is where they seem to prefer hanging out.
I still have to decide what I am going to do on the top. Probably the least expensive will be to get some burlap and camoflauge. At one of the local farm stores that also sells deer corn and tree stands, they did have a package of mossy oak camo material. I may just do that.

While I was working the Osprey flew by twice and got a fish. By the time I could get to the camera it was gone. I did get one shot of it sitting on the tree limb eating the fish. Not a very good shot as it was across the lake and up. Out of lens range so it is fuzzy. Last year there were at least three eagles that regularly visited the lake. Hope they will be back this year.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fall Weekend Activities

It has been an absolutely picture perfect fall weekend. Cool nights and mornings with days that warm up to low to mid 70's. All the animals seem to sense the impending cold weather and are frantically feeding on berries and available insects. Most of the berries on the dogwood trees in the yard have been picked clean by the Robin's in just a couple of days.

On my walk Saturday, I encountered several hawks (my favorite bird). They were busy hunting for whatever they could find. Some were successful, others not so much. I believe the hawk in the tree was a young one. It was smaller in size than an adult and it stayed fairly close for an extended period of time which was not something an adult would do. Further in the walk, this adult was watching for prey in the marsh and quickly flew away as we walked over the bridge.

Within the last two weeks, the deer at the house have taken a distinct liking to the Hosta. Even though it is quickly going down for the winter, I still do not want them to get in the bed and paw at the plants. I decided to try and lure them away tempting them with some deer corn and "deer chow". Saturday night around 10 pm, I looked out the window and two bucks were devouring the "deer chow" and licking the mineral block. This morning around 4:30, Ali was barking like the world was coming to an end. When I came in to the room where she was, I looked out the window and five deer were in the front yard.

So tonight, I am going to do a bit of an experiment. I have placed a dish of the chow/corn mix, a tray of corn and a tray of acorns I swept off the deck and off the top of the house. Someone I work with told me that acorns are one of deers favorite foods. We will see. I have placed the trays about 10 feet apart. I am going to attempt some photos even though they will be nothing more than silohouette. The streetlights should provide enough to make an attempt.
If I am successful, I will post a couple of pix. No guarantee of the quality.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Different Kind of Wild Life

What a wonderful day it has been. The "wildlife" I experienced today was a little different than my normal postings. I was able to spend some time with my nephew making cookies for him to enter in the State Fair. He made Granola Ranger Cookies. I was really impressed by his skills in the kitchen. With the exception of taking the hot pan out of the oven and just a little supervision to make sure the quantities of ingredients were correct, he did them on his own. It was so cute when he told me I could call him Chef T.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that he wins some sort of ribbon. Even a third place would be okay. Even if he doesn't, between his Mom and I, we will make sure he gets a ribbon (even if we have to make one up).

Before we started baking, between batches in the oven, and after we finished, playtime was on between he and Ali. Normally every afternoon, Ali starts the constant pawing until we go for a walk. This afternoon, she has settled in for a long nap. I think the solution is to have an active 6 year old for her to play with all day to wear her out.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Unexpected Visitor Today

Today was the first day it has felt like fall for the entire day. I went out for a walk early and had to dig out a light jacket. It was really nice to walk without the constant buzz of mosquitoes.

I was walking quietly and before either of us were aware of each other, I was up on this doe. I stopped to watch her when I spotted her offspring close by. She was not very happy with me just standing and watching. She would raise her leg and stomp it down then snort. She did this a couple of times then the fawn tried to imitate her. It was so cute I had to laugh out loud. At that point they both took off.

After finally getting rain, grass cutting was the activity of the day. I noticed a bird at the feeder that I did not recognize. At first I thought it was a large sparrow or a finch of some sort but it was larger than any I had ever seen . When it flew, I saw the yellow under the wings and a yellow tint to some of the under feathers. It was extremely skiddish but I was able to finally get a couple of pictures so I could determine what it was. A Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. In 20 years of living here, I have never seen one in the yard. I wondered about the male since I thought it was odd a female bird was by herself. After I found the picture in the bird book, I realized it had also been there. Because of similarity of coloration to the Towhee, I did not give it a close look thinking it was a Towhee.

Maybe this is an indication this will be a good birding fall. It is getting that time of year when the migratory birds are coming through.