Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Last Minute Road Trip - Raptors

My friend and I made a last minute decision to leave early yesterday morning (0330) to go to Lake Mattamuskeet.  The weather was simply beautiful.  We arrived just as the sun was coming up.   As we crossed the lake, hundreds of swallows were swooping about.  We stopped trying to get some shots but none came out very good.  Too dark and they were moving too quickly.

Upon arriving at the refuge the first bird we saw was a Red-tailed Hawk.  We took this as a good sign we would see some raptors today.

We had hoped to see more waterfowl and after stopping by the refuge office, we got some intel on where some fairly good size groups of Ibis and Blue-winged Teals were spotted.  This was on the back side of the refuge and after getting some directions, we took off.  This area is closed after 31 October to prevent disturbing the migrating waterfowl so we were hoping to get some good shots.

We found the area, parked and packed to hike in.  After a little more than 1/2 mile, we realized we took the wrong path,  All was not lost though.  There were a couple of young Merlin that were desperately trying to catch some prey.  Their hunting skills were definitely lacking and repeated swoop downs on large flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds that were feeding on seed heads in the field yielded to results.  One young one that was nearby unfortunately was sitting in the shadows.  We had to jack the ISO up to 2000 to even get a shot light enough to get any detail.

Finally moving on to try and find the correct area, we soon realized we were looking at another 1 1/2 mile hike to get to the location and back.  With limited time and shorter days, we decided we would come back another day before the area was closed.  On the way back out we spotted an Osprey sitting in a tree doing some serious grooming.

Back to the front side of the refuge, we hit the back area.  We were quite surprised to find one area that was still warbler rich.  In one small area we found a Black-and-white, American Redstart, Northern Parula and still a few Prothonotary Warblers.

The day was getting late and we decided to make one last run down Wildlife Drive.  We spotted a Kestrel hunting and stopped to watch it for a while.  They are such pretty birds.

As we were watching we noticed a brown bird swooping low over the marsh.  Yeah!  A Northern Harrier.  They are such magnificent fliers.  Immediately the little Kestrel flew off yielding to the Harrier's presence.

One last stop going over the lake and an eagle popped out of a small island of trees and starting flying across the lake.  A nice bird to end the day with.


Coppertop said...

Great photos Paula, you had a beautiful day in more ways than one!

Paula said...

Thanks Liz. It was a beautiful day in many ways indeed. I did have some camera issues and could have cried when I got home. I had been experimenting with some settings and thought I had changed all back. Lost some really good shots unfortunately.

ME2NC said...

AWESOME photos, Paula. You saw WAY more than I did. You left at 3:30 AM?? Oh my!! About the earliest I have ever left here is about 6:30. I am SO not a morning person. *grin* Glad that you got to see so much.

Paula said...

Thanks Gladys. Early bird gets the worm (giggle) or birds in this case. It was an exceptionally good trip. We are going back soon so we can get back to an area that will be closing on 1 Nov. I am just the opposite.....early to bed, early to rise.