Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Whirl Wind Trip Planning to Pea Island NWR

My friend and I had talked about taking another day trip down east before my vacation is over and this morning we changed from a day trip to an over-nighter. We have decided to continue on to Pea Island NWR on the Outer Banks. This will give us time to enjoy the trip and take our time on what we photgraph. We leave out tomorrow morning at 0500.

Since it is the off-off season, room rates were extremely affordable. The outer banks during peak season, out of my range at most places. However, for birders looking for migrating waterfowl, this is the season! Bonus score.

It has been a busy day making preparations, charging all batteries up and making sure everything is packed. My dog sitter cancelled at the last moment but the young kid up the street jumped at the opportunity to earn some money. I remember what it was like to be 14 and wanting to earn some money. He is reliable and knows Ali so I feel good about it.

We should be able to squeeze in some side visits to a couple of the lighthouses. Figure is is just a good photo op. It has been quite a while since I have visited some of them.

Pea Island NWR Facts: Established in 1937 as federal wildlife refuge, 5834 land acres, 25,700 with water bounderies. Refuge is comprised of ocean beach, fresh and brackish water ponds, dunes, salt flats and salt marshes.

Bird list stands at 365 species (covering all seasons), 24 species of mammals, 24 species of reptiles and 5 species of amphibians. Of course the reptiles and amphibians will more than likely not be out this time of year.

Endanged and threatened species include peregrine falcon, loggerhead sea turtles (during mating season), and piping plovers. Keeping my fingers crossed on the peregrine. Other than photos, I have never seen one.

Weather is suppose to be great, looking forward to the trip and hope to have good pictures when I get back.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

All Fluffed Up And No Where To Go

Woke up to a beautiful snow but I am ready for it to go. Ali stood with her head out the dog door this morning deciding whether to go out or not. Finally the morning call of nature was stronger than the not wanting to go out in the cold so out she went. After a brief run around in the snow, she was ready to come in.

The birds have been wonderful today. Heavily hitting then feeders then watching from nearby limbs to make sure another bird was not getting something they missed.

So many wonderful photos today so it is hard to know which to post. Some I concentrated on the feather detail and others, trying to catch them at their "fluffiest".
To go with the fluffy snow, I am going with the fluffy birds. The quiet of the day deserves quiet, subdued photos. I did get some wonderful video and as soon as I can figure out how to post it I will.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day Trip to Mattamuskeet

The long awaited trip to Mattamuskeet was yesterday. We left around 0400 and arrived a little after 0700. We stopped over the lake before arriving and the refuge proper. There is a little line of cypress trees for out in the water and the Tundra Swan were in close among the knees. Several eagles were flying around looking for that chance meal.

After a few minutes of viewing we proceeded to the refuge. There was so much flying and in the water it was hard to know what to photograph first. Sometimes you just had to stop and take in the spectacle of it all. One of our first oooh's and ahhh's was a young eagle. It perched in a close by pine tree and gave us a wonderful photo opportunity.

In one little small corner marsh we had the biggest delight. There were two Black Crowned Night Herons, a Great Egret and an American Bittern. I think they were all looking for a little corner away from the wind that never seemed to stop blowing.

I was so thrilled to see the Bittern. When is was further in the reeds and being so still, I could not even spot it until my friend pointed it out to me. Once it moved, I could then pick it out.

Hundreds of Pintail Ducks were out and would take flight whenever an eagle would fly over to circle around and land again. Along the reeds the Northern Shoverlers were spending most of their time bottom up finding something to eat underneath the water.

After several hours at Mattamuskeet we proceeded to SwanQuarter NWR however with high winds, nothing on the water. We then went to Pungo Lake which is part of the Pocosin Lakes NWR. The swans had begun coming inland for the night and were settling in on a large field. The sight and sound was amazing. I should have taken some video.

As we were leaving, we passed a sign that was posted warning the public not to enter the fields where the swans were resting. A Kestrel was sitting on top and was accomodating to let us taken many photos. They are such beautiful and amazing birds the way they hover while they are searching for insects.

After many shots we continued on out and once on the road noticed a massive flock of birds swarming. I think my friend and I both assumed they were starlings however upon a closer look, realized they were Red Winged Blackbirds. Another wonderous sight to watch them as they swirled and flocked.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Young Eagle Bully

Despite being dark and gray, I went to the lake this morning to see what was out. A lot of Mergansers, gulls and herons. Much displaying from the herons as they are searching for a mate.
A snowy egret was also visiting and its brillant white really stood out against the dullness of a winter day.

After being out for a while we went inside to warm a bit and came back out. We had a treat from the eagles when we returned. There was one young one sitting in what is the favored tree for the eagles. Another came flying in and gave it a wallop. The young eagle that had been sitting on the tree limb went tumbling but regained its composure. After a brief display of bravado it flew off and the incoming eagle was now king of the limb. Sorry for the bad photo. It was very dark and just out of lens range but I thought the shot was funny.
The loser flew on up the lake. I sort of feel sorry for them since the lake is freezing over with only a few open water places remaining. This one flew several times down to the lake only to find it covered over with ice. They have been eating fish heavily for several days now so hopefully they will be okay for a few days until it warms back up a little. It is not a thick layer of ice so it won't take much of a temp rise to melt.

Even the silly Canada Geese that flew in slipped and slided as they landed on the ice. Several lost their balance and it made for a humerous sight.
It has started snowing and sleeting again this afternoon. Weather folks still can't say exactly what they think we may get. Hopefully not much. Our trip to Lake Mattamuskeet has already been postponed from tomorrow until Monday so we can see what the weather is going to do.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Spy Outside My Window -

Today is a very raw feeling weather day. We awoke to a light dusting of snow followed by freezing rain. Just a plain out nasty day to do much of anything. The roads are terrible with many wrecks so it is a stay at home day. After a freeze over tonight, I suspect the roads will be even worse in the morning.

The only good thing about a day like today is if you are fortunate to be off work, when snow is on the ground, the birds flock to the feeders. I sat at the window for about an hour this morning enjoying a hot cup of tea and photographing the birds. I had two chairs pulled up and Ali sat in one watching intently at the fluttering about of the birds. She was fine until the squirrels came then hot breath fogging up the window and drool and to go.

I woke early to take a couple of suet cakes out of the freezer to let them thaw out a little. I wanted to have them out early as I knew the birds would be searching for food. I have been rewarded all day with constant visitors to the feeders. There were so many birds I threw a handful of seed on the ground for the doves, sparrows and a few others that prefer the ground.
Lots of Cardinals.

I have throughly enjoyed the Bluebirds today. At one point I counted about a dozen. I knew there were quite a few young ones around by summers end so it looks like they are hanging around.
The variety that have visited today has been amazing. I have racked up on the feederwatch numbers today. Some came and went so quickly I could not get a good shot.

Feeling sorry for the squirrels I put out a handful of corn for them. Mostly as a lure to tempt them from climbing for the suet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How do you say BRRRR!!

Another very cold and windy day. It is not even winter and I have already had enough of the cold. Snow and/or ice is predicted for tomorrow so I made the most of being outside today.
The lake is beginning to freeze over from successive days of cold temps. Water driven by the wind over fallen tree limbs in the lake is freezing as it drips down creating unusual designs.

Northern Shovelers at the pond. First time I have seen them here. Are they bringing all the cold?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shrike - Loggerhead or Northern?

I went with my friend to Southern Pines which is about an hour away. Slow birding day because of the cold and wind. I was however thrilled to get a shot of this Shrike. Now as I look closely at it, I am uncertain whether it is a Northern or Loggerhead. As this is my first Shrike, I do not have a comparison to a known bird. I am leaning towards a Loggerhead simply by geographic location. By coloration, the gray appears lighter which makes me think Northern. If anyone knows for certain, please leave a comment.

Quite a few Kildeer were hurrying and scurrying around in the horse pastures.

There were also lots of deer grazing about in nearby fields. They would watch you with a cautious eye but were not too worried about your distant presence. Something unknown would spook them and they would bolt but later reappear in another location.

Our hostess was gracious and patient in riding us around a local land preserve in hopes of spotting a Fox Squirrel. I appreciate her kindess and hope I will have the opportunity for another visit.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Morning with the Eagles

After a couple of rainy days, I wanted to give the scope a try today. I went to the lake but after a couple of attempts, knew it was not the day to try. Winds steady 15-25 with gust up to 35+ mph making wind chill temps down in the teens. Needless to say, far too much movement from the wind.

So I pulled out the trusty 100-400 and seated it on the tripod. Still, too much wind. White caps were on the lake and I really thought about just hanging it up for the morning.

About that time, two then three eagles. These were all young eagles. As I was attempting to get some shots and two adults joined the flying frenzy. I was so engaged with just watching them I mostly said the heck with pictures. After the brief flying frenzy they settled down.
Out of 100+ shots, barely a handful decent. I continue to say these are my nemesis birds. For the life of me I cannot seem to get good shots. I am bound and determined to get a couple I feel good about. I have the rest of December vacation to try.
My friend and I have settled on a date to go down east to the major wildlife refuges to see the migratory waterfowl. We are going to do our trip planning tomorrow during a sidebar trip. I know the eagles also come in now so I will have a chance at another location. Looking so forward to this trip. 24 species of ducks and thousands of snow geese. If I don't get something decent, I will give up.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Birds at the Lake

My first stop was at my usual birding spot. A little on the slow side with the exception of lots of Goldfinches and Bluebirds. Love the Bluebirds.
They just have a very sweet look about them.
I went down to my parents to try to photograph my new nemesis bird, the eagle(s) and osprey. I stepped in to let my Mom know I was down at the lake and we were looking out the window discussing the antics of the herons, the eagles flew by. Just a little late. They generally come early so by 0800 I will be at the lake. The weather is suppose to turn ugly Sunday and a cold rain on Monday so tomorrow is my last chance for a couple of days. Since you never know how long they will stay, I want a chance at a good photo.
The herons were once again very active and I simply could not believe when on two separate occasions, one came and perched within 10 feet of me. I guess I had been sitting on the bench for so long they were okay with my presence and felt safe.
I could see the swan up the lake and it was on the way. Wild but habituated so off I went for a couple of slices of bread. They really are beautiful birds. It ended up swimming close by for about another 20 minutes.

After a while of sitting and waiting, hoping for the return of the eagles, I turned my attention to the birds on the Alder trees. Joy!
I had tried earlier in the morning for a good shot of a Golden Crown Kinglet with no luck and now had at least 8 or 9 right in front of me. As they definitely do not sit still long, I took a good position on the big rock and waited. Finally, a couple of good shots.

I walked back to the bench but then noticed a lot of activity on a pine tree. I walked on down and the tree had at least a dozen Pine Warblers flitting about. Every now and then one would come down to the edge of the lake for a drink or in search of something along the edge.