Sunday, January 21, 2018

Unbelievable Birding!!

Five of us from Elderberry took a weekend excursion to Lake Mattamuskeet and Pungo Lake this past weekend to see the tundra swans and snow geese.  Thousands of them migrate through these two NC wildlife refuges in January and February, and they are an extraordinary sight.  We saw hundreds of swans, congregating on the wetlands and hooting softly, an enchanting sound when coming from so many birds at once.  At sunset, swarms of snow geese came into the fields.  They looked like glowing bumblebees in the sky - dark wings set off by a white chest that glowed orange in the setting sun.  We were awed.

In addition to the swans and snow geese, we saw 41 other species of birds.  A very special treat (thanks to our friend Glaeshia) was the black crowned night heron.  We saw an adult at Mattamuskeet and we saw a juvenile in the Swanquarter refuge.  We saw many great blue herons and egrets, and seven bald eagles.

AND, we had so much fun together!  We rented a house for the weekend in Swanquarter, ate some delicious meals at cozy restaurants, enjoyed relaxing mornings together at the house, and ate 2 meals at gas stations (not quite as bad as it sounds, but almost).  We are already planning next year's trip, and would like to add in a ferry ride to Ocracoke and a visit to Pea Island refuge.

For those who really want to see the list of birds (and I know some of you are out there.... Dick's son Rick for one) you will find it at the end of this post below the photos.

Dave, Cheryl and Joyce at one of the viewing platforms at Lake Mattamuskeet

The tundra swans.  There is no way to capture the immensity of the groupings of swans in photos.  Just look at these photos and multiply by hundreds in your head!

An great egret in the little canal in the front yard of the house we were renting. 

Dave getting a better view of the swans.  Can you tell that 4 of us had our stuff crammed into Dick's car?  The roads were SUPER muddy, especially the first day. In addition to chipping in for gas, we all chipped in to pay for Dick's car wash!

Dave, Mary, Joyce, Cheryl and Dick at Lake Mattamuskeet

We heard that the Visitor Center was great, and Mary and Cheryl LOVE visitor centers.  Unfortunately, it was closed due to the government shutdown!  This is Joyce and Cheryl making their saddest faces.

Swans, swans and more swans.  So elegant.

At The Tavern at Jack's Neck in Belhaven.  On Friday night we had a cozy table by the fire, so on Saturday night we called ahead for the same table and went back!

We almost didn't get out of town after the big snow, and there was also a lot of snow in Swanquarter (and they don't have snow plows!).  But driving was not a problem.  This swan didn't seem to mind the snow.

This black-crowned night heron apparently calls this post home.  Glaeshia told us where to look for him and said she sees him there every year.  Pretty amazing!  Most of them leave for the winter, so we were lucky to see this one, and also lucky to see a juvenile one the following day.

Thanks to Glaeshia for use of her spotting scope!  We are checking out a bald eagle here.  On a different hike, we saw three juvenile eagles together in a tree very near to us, and the three took flight together.  Stunning!  Joyce could tell you another story about the eagle experience!

 Lake Mattamuskeet

OK..... Here's the bird list!
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Greater Scaup
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
Double-breasted Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
American Kestrel
American Coot
Wilson's Snipe
Ring-billed Gull
Forster's Tern
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
House Sparrow

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