Saturday, June 30, 2018

Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus) - 18Oct2016

Seaside Sparrows are the third of the trifecta of marsh sparrows in the Wilmington area and probably the least coveted as they are widespread and can be found breeding here unlike the Saltmarsh and Nelson's.  Also, they are not as colorful, but this individual was quite snazzy.  Taken at Fort Fisher.

Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus) - 14Oct2017

The other "sharp-tailed" sparrow that is coveted in Wilmington is the Saltmarsh Sparrow.  This one has much darker streaks than the Nelson's and the yellow bib is not nearly as cleanly marked.  This is a classic one from Wrightsville Beach.

Nelson's Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni) - 14Oct2017

A frequent target bird for out of area birders, the Nelson's Sparrow and Saltmarsh Sparrow are highly coveted but easy to find if you know where to look.  This Nelson's Sparrow can be told from the similar Saltmarsh Sparrow by the lighter streaking and comparatively well delineated yellow bib.  Some of these "sharp-tailed" sparrows show characteristics of both and are very hard to ID. But this one is fairly definitive.

Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) - 18Oct2016

The Northern Harrier is a familiar bird in Wilmington winters hovering above the marshes.  I am sure I have a picture of an adult male "Gray Ghost" somewhere, but I will have to add it later as I sift through my pics.  This one was at Fort Fisher.

American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) - 15Oct2016 & 04Sep2017 & 20Sep2017

A familiar warbler in migration in Wilmington, NC.  Most folks covet the breeding plumage male, but I like the female or immature "yellowstarts". This one was photographed at Fort Fisher, NC.

Here is a male from Jackson Park in Hendersonville, NC.

Finally another Yellowstart in Wilmington, NC.

American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) - 05Jan2018

Although a quite common bird to hear fly over in NC, it is not always easy to get a good pic.  Snow events are rare in NC but when they do happen, its good to find some fields where pipits and other goodies flock.  In 2018 such an event made photographing pipits easy.  This one was at ILM airport.

Wilson's Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) - 11Oct2016 and 07Jan2018

One of the smallest of the warblers in the US, they are pretty uncommon in NC but sometimes in addition to migration we get an odd one overwintering.

This one was seen back in 2016 at Greenfield Lake and probably was still migrating.  The females or young birds can be told from Yellow Warblers and Hooded Warblers by the well defined supercilium. Also, they are way more cute.

This other one found itself in the middle of a rare ice and snow event down my street in January 2018.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mopping Up (10-23Jun2018)

Not a ton of birds showing up on my needs list at this point which is good because work has been killing me.  Here are some birds from the past couple weeks.

Shun kindly offered to take me out to the north end of Figure Eight Island to look for the Snowy Plover that seems to arrive in the summer every year.  He was not there yet, but it was a beautiful evening on the water.

Red Knot

Black Skimmer eggs.

A couple weekends ago I headed to Carteret County to try for some long shots. For some reason Blogger decided to import these backwards in time for that day.  So in no real order here are some pics from that day.

Snowy Egret at Cedar Island Ferry Terminal

Glossy Ibis also at the ferry terminal

A couple of Common Nighthawks were treating me to a rare day time acrobatics display at the east end of Shackleford Banks.

Tricolored Heron

Semipalmated SPs

A Readhead at Cedar Island is injured but seems to be doing ok.

Another flagged bird - Red-breasted Merganser.

Common Eider sitting in the sun glare at Cedar Island Ferry.  The third winter bird that should not be there and flagged on my list.

I arrived at the Cedar Island Causeway super early that morning in the hope of hearing Black Rails, and I was not disappointed.  I usually dip here and usually the bugs are horrible when the wind is slack.  It is a catch 22 because the wind needs to be calm to hear the birds, but the bugs can drive a man insane.  This time the wind was light but somehow the bugs were not too bad.

I still have not figured out how to post audio on Blogger so here is the checklist with audio.

There were plenty of Least Bitterns around enjoying the first sun rays.

A River Otter was fishing for eels...

He was chewing it for a while, must be weird having a live animal slithering in your throat.

Then when he was happy about the tenderizing, he slurped it down like a noodle.


I took Friday off for some recharge time from work and headed to Holden Beach to get a couple easy ticks for the year.

Someone had been reporting a young Reddish Egret in the marsh smack dab in the middle of Holden Beach.  It did not take long to find it.

An all chalky blue gray bird with a white iris.

Next stop was Twin Lakes in Sunset Beach.

18 Wood Storks!  Never seen so many at one time and there was another spot about 1 mile away with another 15.

This Mourning Dove had a short recently molted tail and threw me off for a minute.

This gator was about 7-8 feet long and I watched him attack and scarf down a Great Egret so quickly I didn't have time to photograph it.

On my way to the mountains in NC, I took the SC route through Columbia to shave some time and ran into a couple of low flying Mississippi Kites near Florence, SC.

They would soar around looking for bugs, probably dragonflies and then would fold their wings and drop down really fast.

Something is wrong with my camera, the shots are getting pixelated.  These shots were in perfect light and should have come out great.

My first planned stop was Black Balsam Knob all the way up on the western Parkway but I couldn't resist a quick stop at Pink Beds on the way up to visit some Blackburnians that I met last year in the parking area.

Up at Black Balsam, my first priority was setting up my tent for the night so I could look for birds and not worry about find a spot to camp in the dark.  I found a great spot and pitched the tent in record time, then this guy showed up and ruined my campsite.

I scared him off by waving my arms and shouting and left my tent.  My hope was that someone else would set up too so I wouldn't be totally alone with a bear around.

House Wren

Alder Flycatcher - I was worried I might miss him this year but he was right where I left him from previous years.  Audio of the peet call it was making here:

Chestnut-sided Warblers were everywhere.

I went back to my tent spot but no one was around and I just chickened out.  The plan was to try for Saw Whets at Devil's Courthouse then come back to my already pitched tent but I just didn't want to come back at 10pm in the dark with a bear around.  So I packed up and headed to Mount Pisgah Campground.  I managed to get one of the last tent spots available!  What a gorgeous evening and then to cap it off, a Saw Whet was calling just up the road.  Checklist with audio here:

Mount Pisgah

Saturday morning was a truly perfect sunrise although the photos don't do it justice.

There was about 20 people at this Parkway overlook taking photos of this.

My plan was to head to Clingman's Dome for Black-capped Chickadees but I had to stop a couple times as it was too tempting not to.  I hiked up Richland Balsam Mountain to 6400 feet and heard BC Chickadees and managed to call them in but made the mistake of trying to get a photo instead of recording them.  Not sure if they are accepted in that location because there is hybridization but they looked and sounded just like the ones at Clingman's.  I will have to make the pilgrimage to Clingman's at some point this year to get photos and audio but I decided to change plans and head to my favorite spot - Mount Mitchell.

Meadow Fritillary - I tried to tune out the millions of Motorcycles and enjoy myself as much as possible.

Clouded Sulphur?  Never seen one with that much white.

It was super windy up there and after dipping on Crossbills at Bald Knob, I headed to the Commissary Trail which was protected from the wind and absolutely perfect.

Canada Warblers were nesting in the short blackberry brambles.

BT Greens were also plentiful.

I spotted a Red Crossbill female for a second but by the time I got this shot it had moved to the backside of the tree and then flew off.  It was a 2 second sighting but good enough for a tick.  If you look closely you can see the greenish orange color and dark wings which is good enough as there are no other birds that look like that up at elevation.  Disappointing that I could not muster a better photo but I will be back up later in the fall.

Male Canada

I love that place but the allure of a Sunday Brunch with my family at Savorez pulled me home and I made it back at about 1am on Sunday.