Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Birthday Bash (18-19Feb2018)

I wish I could say my birthday weekend was epic, but it wasn't.  However, I did manage to work very hard for a couple decent year birds.  In hindsight I should have done the pelagic, but I didn't know it would be pushed to Sunday and I had a soccer game for my kid on Saturday.  It wouldn't have stung so bad if my kid's game wasn't so horrible.  C'est la vie!

My big choice was chase Eurasian Wigeon before the ducks leave and try for Golden Eagle at Alligator, or head the mountains and try for Golden up near Cheek Mountain.  I ended up choosing Pungo, Matta and Alligator and OBX.

First thing on Saturday I arrived at the Pungo entrance to find a huge flock of Red-winged Blackbirds.  I thought for sure this was a fortuitous sighting and set myself to the task of finding a Yellow-headed BB.  45 minutes later I had combed through 20 or so thousand Red-winged, Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Starlings and some other common birds and still had no Yellow-headed.

Never the less, it was impressive and a Black Bear in a distant field was nice.  I didn't bother with a pic since it was just a black blob.

How many RWBBs can you fit in one tree?

Once again my rarophyllia kicked in when I saw this raptor sitting on a dirt mound.  The pointy wings had me thinking Prairie Falcon or some other exotic bird.  Of course it was just a Northern Harrier.

Gray Ghost

Tons of Tree Swallows at Pungo.

Red-winged Blackbirds are already displaying.

Three Sandhill Cranes mixed in with the Tundra Swans at Pungo.

Before leaving I checked the Red-winged flock again just to be sure.  Still no Yellow-headed.

At Mattamuskeet it took me a long time to find one of the Eurasian Wigeons but I finally got it after a couple hours of looking.  My eyes are still smarting from staring in my scope in the high wind.

Damn coot in the way but nice comparison of the heads of a American and Eurasian Wigeon.

Alligator started out with a bang when I found a small pack of Red Wolves lounging in a field.

I knew they were Red Wolves and not Coyotes based on the honking red radio collar on the far right wolf.

That thing has to be uncomfortable, but I guess if it helps prevent being shot by a hunter it is a good thing.   On NPR I was listening to 1A and there was a dude talking about how AR-15s are great for Coyote hunting.  My question is do they eat Coyotes or just kill them and throw them in a ditch?  Disgusting in my opinion.

Lesser Yellowlegs - I diligently reached for Ruffs in amongst the Yellowlegs but did not find any.

When I first saw this bird soaring I immediately thought Golden Eagle as it had dark underwings and a unique tail pattern and was flying in a dihedral.  Now I see it is a Bald Eagle with a strange combo of a white head but patterned tail.  I wonder how many sightings of Golden Eagles lately are just poor views of Bald Eagles in interesting plumage patterns.

Red-tailed Hawk

As it got dark this raptor perched in a tree near Milltail Rd.  The bib came down far so I can see how it could be IDed as a Swainson's but I got a look as it flew away and the petagial bar gave it away as a Red-tailed.

I waited until dark and never saw a Short-eared Owl, but was treated to the most amazing Red Wolf chorus.  They seemed to be all around me and in fact it was a little spooky.

Herring Gull at Oregon Inlet.  I searched high and low for Snowy Owls with no luck.

This loon was really interesting but in the end I called it a Red-throated Loon.  Pacific and Arctic were considered and thrown out.

Common Merganser on the way home at the Cresswell ponds. Too far for a good shot but will do for year bird purposes.

There was actually a good mix of Common Mergansers and Red-breasted.

Random Wild Turkey flock in Roper area.

As I drove home in shame, I saw a large dark eagle on the side of the highway that looked great for Golden, but as I slammed on the breaks and pulled over he flew off before I could get some pics.  I saw the general direction he flew in and spent the next 30 minutes driving back roads looking for him.  I did find this above Bald Eagle which was all dark but when I got the scope and checked it over thoroughly I could see some white feathers in the neck area.  Dang it!  I will never know if the one I saw on the snag was a Golden but I am not about to call it without a pic.

I also made a stop at Glenburnie Quarry in New Bern to look for Eared Grebe on the way home but struck out.  However, I am always happy to find a new birding spot and met a nice local in the process so not all a wash.  There was an evening roost of thousands of gulls in the quarry so I bet something good will show up there soon.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Here Kitti Kitti Kitti.... (11-17Feb2018)

I worked hard to plug holes this week and then Saturday was rewarded with a prize.  First things first though, here are the plugs.

Brown-headed Nuthatch at Holly Shelter

Red-cockaded Woodpecker at Holly Shelter - the habitat is looking great and best thing about it, no guns!  By the way, if you own a AR-15, please consider destroying it and joining the unarmed militia.  I don't own a gun and let me tell you, it is liberating and feels great.

Double-crested Cormorant

Dark-eyed Junco at the Battleship in Wilmington.  Last year I didn't get one in New Hanover at all.  I am not superstitious but I am on a roll and this Dark-eyed Junco was just one more good omen.

Belted Kingfisher at FF

Boat-tailed Grackle

Palm Warbler at FF

Savannah Sparrow at FF

Common Grackle at FF

Gray Catbird at FF Aquarium

I believe this one is a Nelson's Sparrow - the lines not too dark and somewhat blurry, the bib is well defined and the contrast between malar and breast is minimal.

Saltmarsh Sparrow - lines darker and more crisp, and the bib is not well delineated.

Seaside Sparrow at FF - a hat trick!

Saltmarsh Sparrow

Great Egret

Saturday I got to Johnny Mercers Pier first thing and joined forces with Sam Cooper's Audubon group.  Our first bird was a dark sulid that initially had me thinking Sooty Shearwater from a distance but closer inspection revealed a Gannet.

Chocolatey immature Northern Gannet

Red-breasted Mergansers - the strong northeast wind was bringing all kinds of birds streaming by.

First of the year Black Skimmers

Sam's group headed to the North end and I stayed because I just felt something good would show up eventually and my intuition paid off.  A Black-legged Kittiwake flew by at high speed and I put my bins on it.  Luckily it flew to shore about a hundred yards down the beach and started feeding in the surf.  I called Sam and ran down to where it was.

Black-legged Kittiwake - Wrightsville Beach, NC.

I couldn't help myself and took hundreds of pics.

Not a bird you see every day in ILM.

The whole Audubon group got on it, I think it was a lifer for a bunch of them.  It was still there when I left to drive my kids to soccer.

Red-shouldered Hawk at Wade Park

Loggerhead Shrike at Veteran's Park.

What a week!