Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Birthday Boy (13-18Feb2017)

What better present could I ask for than a lifer Yellow Rail?  But first some things from earlier in the week.

Several weeks ago I had a Snow Goose at Pea Island that had a neck band.  I submitted it and got back this certificate.

Nunavut Canada!!! Wow.

Oystercatcher at WB

Red sky in the morning... Ring-billed Gull.

Probably a Russian spy plane.

This Scaup has been hanging out at Airlie Gardens.  I believe it is a Greater Scaup based on the wide bill and big "nail" on the tip of the bill.

Greater Scaup - rounded head.

Red Fox at Airlie - a family of foxes has a den here every year for as long as I can remember.

Black Vulture

Chipping Sparrow at Oleander Memorial Gardens

I have been going for sunrise at Johhny Mercer's Pier almost every day.  A gorgeous way to start the day.

Mmmm Orange Sherbet sky.

One of these days I will find a Little Gull among the Bonaparte's Gulls.


Saturday was my 41st Bday.  It just so happened that some friends organized a rail trip to North River Marsh.

On the way David W and I checked the Beaufort Airport fields and found two Sandhill Cranes.

We met up with the group and headed to North River Marsh.

This is prime Yellow Rail habitat, short marsh grass with clumps of sharp pointed Black Needlerush.  The strategy is to line up and slowly walk across the marsh close enough that any rails will be forced to flush in front of the line.  Usually you get more Virginias and Soras and if you are lucky a Black or Yellow Rail.  After about an hour we scored with great looks at a Yellow Rail as it flushed in the middle of the line. Everyone got good but brief looks.  Now let me say here I am a little on the fence as to whether this practice is ethical.  This species is quite rare and sensitive to environmental pressures.  Or is it?  They are so secretive and do not seem to sing or at least sound similar to frog species that it is difficult to get an accurate read on prevalence.  Never the less, I think if birders only do it once to get their life bird and don't do it regularly it probably is ok.  Plus its good to get some data in eBird for a species that doesn't get much data.  If you do go to North River Marsh to get your lifer Yellow Rail, be respectful of the environment and try to tread as lightly as possible.

The group.  Marty W got a grainy picture of the rail as it flushed but most of us were transfixed on it and never got our cameras up.

Vesper Sparrow at Fort Macon.

Painted Bunting

Canvasback and a crap load of Redheads at a private pond in Carteret County.

Lesser Scaup in middle.

Canvasback in center frame

Lesser Scaup - the bill was relatively narrow and the "nail" was small.

I believe a Greater would be similar in size to the Redheads, whereas this one was quite a bit smaller.

At the Patsy Pond Nature Trail in the Croatan we had a nice group of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.

What a great way to spend my 41st Bday. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Distractions (05-12Feb2017)

This past week I suffered from an almost tragic distraction from my county crown bid.  Seeing all the reports of Manx Shearwaters off Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head, I couldn't keep myself from taking a 2 day road trip.  The birding was great but no Manx and I could have easily missed the Harlequin Ducks found back at home while I was up there.

First some local birds....

White-winged Scoter in Banks Channel.

Surf Scoter at Masonboro inlet.

First year male Common Eider next to Masonboro's north jetty.

Common Eider and Surf Scoter

Female Common Eider in Banks Channel

Yellow-breasted Chat at Fort Fisher Aquarium parking lot.

Pied-billed Grebe at Burnt Mill Creek.

Greater Yellowlegs at Fort Fisher Spit

Marsh Wren at the Spit

Red-Shouldered Hawk - at a random spot on the side of the road in Wilmington.

Winter Wren on UNCW campus

I took my boys again to the campus in the afternoon to look for a Red-breasted Nuthatch and we heard him but couldn't get a visual.

This junglefowl was hanging out in the UNCW woods.  Weird.

Anhinga at Ann McCrary Park.

A full moon this past week.

Northern Gannets abound at the end of Johnny Mercer's pier.

On Friday I took the day off work and started by looking for Barn Owls in Washington County.  No luck.

Dawn the Rosy-fingered made her appearance at Pungo.

I spent a good 3-4 hours at Pungo looking for Trumpeter Swans and other goodies but failed to find anything compelling. However, the sheer amount of waterfowl was stunning.

Later at Mattamuskeet I thought for sure I had a Trumpeter but now I am second guessing.  I never put it in eBird.  Let me know what you think dear reader.

The lores were not pinched like a Tundra and had no yellow.  However, the forehead did not necessarily come to a point like I would expect on a good Trumpeter.

Although the bill is all black and the eye is not pinched, the shape was just not totally convincing.

What do you think?

House Wrens love Matta.

Blue-winged Teal

Northern Shoveler and friend.  At the time I thought Northern Pintail and I still do, but what the heck is going on with the green sheen on his head?  Could this be a Mallard x Pintail Hybrid?

At Gum Swamp Rd I dipped on the Brewer's Blackbirds. Plenty of Brown-headed but no Brewer's.  I left in disgust without taking any pictures.

Juvenile Bald Eagle on the way up past Engelhard, NC.

Most of the afternoon was spent scanning the ocean for Manx Shearwaters.  The wind was strong off-shore so probably they were all out to sea.  I should have known.  ARGHHHHH....

Razorbill - "football with wings".

Female Common Eider

In the evening I made the drive over to Alligator NWR.

Horrible photo of a Short-eared Owl battling with a Northern Harrier. The Short-eared in center frame.

Next morning I dipped again really badly on Manx Shearwater so I began the trek home.

Based on the relatively heavy muzzle I think this is a Red Wolf and not a Coyote.  It loped around like a wolf. I have noticed Coyotes have a more bouncy gait like they are prancing.  Plus Coyotes have a fairly pointy snout. However, glad to field any detractors.

Young Bald Eagle

I dipped a second time at Gum Swamp on Brewer's BB and spent the rest of the afternoon at Pungo.

Shovelers and Tundra Swans.

Rusty Blackbirds and other BB species.  I looked hard for Brewers but the females in this flock looked more like Rusty BBs.

An imposter!  Trumpeter Swans have a forehead that comes down in a V while a Tundra has a U.  The Tundra on the left clearly did not want to fit in and has a V but the yellow near the eye and the pinched area just before the eye give it away as a Tundra.

Some Tundras had all black bills and some had tons of yellow.

Its enough to make a man go mad looking for a Trumpeter.  A couple times I thought I heard a Trumpeter in the crowd but I never ID things based on sound only.

Late in the afternoon the real show started with Tundras starting to take off and in the distance a huge flock of Snow Geese changed the sunny forecast to a snow storm.

Reverse Snow Storm - 50 thousand or more Snow Geese all taking off at once is a sight to see.

While watching the Snow Geese stream by I was able to pick out some different ones.  Can you pick out the two Ross's Geese?

Look for the birds with shorter necks and smaller overall.

Another string went by and I think I found another Ross's.

Just under the middle of frame.

The symphony of Geese and Swans was a bit overwhelming.

Snow Geese and Tundra Swans.

Its weird how the "Blue" morph Snow Geese seemed to stick together.  I guess even Geese are a bit racist.

Canada Geese sounded completely different so it was easy to pick them out in the mix.  In this small flock I believe I had a Cackling Goose. Note the shorter neck on the top left bird.

Upper right - possibly Cackling or maybe just a Lesser.

Back home on Sunday I birded a bit with Luke in the morning.

Fish Crow - longer wings and tail plus it was calling like a Fish Crow.

Harlequin Ducks!

Best bird of the week and I could have stayed home!