The last two days have been driving intensive but well worth it. Our trip started early Thursday morning and after a while of driving and encountering some black ice conditions, stopped for some breakfast until it was a little lighter outside and I could see upcoming road conditions a little better.
Our first stop was back at Mattamuskeet. Not the best weather day. Skies went from a bright blue to a milky white most of the day and a light breeze. After several successive days of cold a thin layer of ice cover most of the water close to land. Not near as much waterfowl present as our first trip.
I did manage to get a couple of nice shots that I was happy with. An immature eagle came in and sat for a while before swooping down after something. Just as we had stopped for a little snack to refuel, four Ibis came flying in and rested in a couple of tree tops. We watched a Great Blue trying to walk on the ice slipping and sliding. In retospect, had our trip itinerary been reversed, we probably would have seen much more as Saturday proved to be an absolutely beautiful day.
After departing Mattamuskeet, we headed over to the outer banks in no big hurry. We did a brief drive through at Aligator River NWR hoping to possibly catch some mammal activity but not much out and the roads were very muddy from the recent snow so we continued on wanting to arrive at the motel before dark. Oh well, hope for a bear one of the red wolves another day.
And where else would birders stay? We sort of laughed that of all places we would pick something with a bird name. Nothing fancy but clean with a great view of the ocean and close to our next day destination.
After a restless night of non-sleep, we awoke early to catch the last morning of the year sunrise. All signs pointed to a beautiful day ahead. Where else better to be on the last sunrise for the year? Fishing boats were headed out early at the crack of dawn and a long stream of boats came by.
Our first stop was a the salt flats on the Pea Island NWR. Missed shots of two Peregrin Falcons flying by. Blew out as I had been shooting something in a darker area. Darn! My second missed shot was when a little red raccoon popped up. It surprised me so much all I could do was just watch it. As we were walking back to the parking area, huge waves of Snow Geese came flying over. They were beautiful and amazing to watch as they rose and lowered in the sky trying to find that perfect place to land on the water.
As we were walking back we noticed all of these little birds running around on the ground. Unfortunately, we were shooting in to the sun at that point and I could never get a really good shot despite many efforts. Last night as I was trying to identify them I realized they were American Pipits. My first.
Another thrill was a family of four river otters that were swimming about. They swam directly over to a group of snow geese and caused such a stir the geese all got up and flew. It was almost like that were mischevious kids getting something sitrred up.
We proceeded on down to the the North Pond area of the refuge. Much excitement from all who were there over an American Bittern that was putting on quite a show. You couldn't help but slightly giggle as it would hunch down and do a little rear end wiggle right before it would plunge in after a fish.
As we walked on down the trail, off in one of the marshy areas we could see a raccoon really working at digging. Never got a really good clear shot of it just one peaking through the rushes.
Lots of what I guess are Rusty Blackbirds. This was also a first for me so even though I suppose they are common, I was excited to see one.
By this point we were both famished and proceeded down to Rodanthe. We found a local restuarant and had a wonderful fish basket. Not sure if it was really as good as we thought or whether we were just hungry but it hit the spot.
And even though this is my home state, I acted like a typical tourist and went to find the house where "Nights in Rodanthe" was filmed. Several years ago after one of the big hurricanes, it was questionable as to whether the house would survive. After a serious wash of the beaches, the house was condemed for occupancy. Finally being moved, it was restored by a couple and is now an inn.
As we were headed home, we saw a sign for Pettigrew State Park. We decided on a quick detour and just rode down to see what it was like. Lake Phelps is there and I believe it is suppose to be the largest natural lake in North Carolina. I will have to remember to go back next fall. I can imagine the fall colors reflecting on the lake would be beautiful. Even in the dullness of winter, the beauty of the cypress trees reflecting in the water was pretty. Along the dock, water dripping and freezing made for nice reflections in the water.