Friday, December 28, 2018

352!!! (26-27Dec2018)

Wow..... It has been a long year and I was skeptical but the birding gods smiled on me the day after Xmas and gave me two belated presents to put me over the 351 record threshold for NC big years held by Derb C.  I received a text alert of a Black Guillemot being seen about noon on Wednesday at Jeanette's Pier and although I had already been planning to go to the OBX that afternoon, I had to kick it into gear as I was 4 hours away and the pier closes at 5pm.  Once I finally got into my truck and on the road, I checked my Nav and it said 4:20 pm arrival.  That was cutting it close because one road detour or traffic jam would ruin it.  However, as I said lady luck was smiling on me and I pulled into the pier parking lot at approximately 4:20p.

Black Guillemot - only the third seen in NC and first photographed.  Thanks to Jacob F for posting quickly once he found this beauty.

The pier was closing and I figured I could still get my original target in Short-eared Owl so I quickly got back in my truck and pointed her towards Alligator.  Jeff L called me and said he was coming to help out which turned out to be my saving grace.  When we got to Alligator, we saw Ed C and a friend already positioned over by the buildings on Milltail and so Jeff and I staggered about 50 yards down from Ed with the plan that the first person would hoot and holler when an owl was spotted.  Well after I got out of my truck 50 yards from Jeff, I hear someone hollering and turned around to see a Short-eared flying right over Ed and towards Jeff!  I could not have asked for better luck.

Short-eared Owl - it is really tough to photograph these in NC or at least here at Alligator.  People see them every year but the issue is that usually it is too dark for photography.  I filtered on listings in eBird with pictures and there are only a couple.  So this was truly an auspicious occurrence.

Short-eared flying by truck!

Jeff and I then went out for a nice seafood dinner and some beers.  What a great feeling!

The irony is I got two amazing year birds within 1 hour on Wednesday, whereas on Thursday I tried hard all day and could not find another.

First I searched Pea Island and the south end of Oregon Inlet but found nothing.   At Bodie Island I was targeting Long-eared Owl or Northern Goshawks as long shots.  When I started my hike down one of the trials, I heard crows giving something hell and quickened my pace.

Great Horned Owl - not the one I was hoping for.

Then I tried the Nags Head pier hoping for a Harlequin Duck with no luck.  I did however see a bird that looked good for the Guillemot fly by the end of the pier going south.  I did not see it land so it is possible it is somewhere near Oregon Inlet now.

Next I tried Alligator for Golden Eagles, but again came up empty.

Someone had posted a Golden Eagle at Mattamuskeet the day before and I figured it was a long shot, but everything at this point is a long shot.  The poster said an all dark eagle was terrorizing the duck impoundments near the entrance.

This all dark eagle was interesting but quickly was revealed to be an Immature Bald.  I wonder if it is the same bird.

White axillaries make this a Bald Eagle.

Outside Matta, there was a giant Blackbird flock in a distant field and I swear I am almost 90% positive I saw the white wing marking of an adult male Yellow-headed Blackbird but after photographing the flock for the next 15 minutes, I could not isolate any candidate in the pictures.  So unfortunately that species still eludes me.

Originally I planned to stay close to the OBX and maybe try the VOA site but the promise of bad weather the next day made me change my mind and go home.  The idea of getting my last year bird close to home is appealing.  The best possibility is Mottled Duck...

I will post a review and highlights from my big year in 2019.  Thanks for following along with me on my journey.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

One more down, one more to Tie! (24-26Dec2018)

Its coming down to the wire for taking the NC big year record!  My buddy Steve R found a Golden-crowned Sparrow up in Harbinger earlier this week so I obviously pulled the trigger on a chase the next day.  I arrived to a gaggle of excellent birders already on it.

Golden-crowned Sparrow!  This was one of the few photos when it was in the sun and unfortunately my camera settings were not ideal.

On the way home I hung out at Alligator for a few hours and found tons of immature Baldies, but no Goldens.

Red-tailed at Ashley High School back in ILM.

Bluebird at FF

Ross's Goose at Ashley High School in Wilmington.

Off to the OBX to try for some more rarities....

Sunday, December 23, 2018

5MR Birding

Hey Folks, excited to try a new concept next year designed to get me birding locally and using my bike and stand-up paddleboard more.  One of the blogs ( I follow has suggested the concept of birding only within a 5 mile radius of your residence.  She posted a website to help draw the circle so that's what I have done.
Google Earth (instructions can be found on this website:

Unfortunately some of my favorite spots like the north end of Wrightsville and Fort Fisher, not to mention Burnt Mill and most of Greenfield Lake are outside my circle.  Also, I have a ton of useless ocean unless I get a boat.  However, I am amped to have less of an impact on the environment and see some more of my home county.

I will use the eBird Patch function to track my progress and of course post a new list to my blog sidebar starting 01Jan2019!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

One More Down, 3 To Go (17Nov - 22Dec2018)

I have been so busy with work and birding in my off hours that I have developed quite a backlog of photos, but only one more year bird to show for it.  First some local photos...

Bufflehead at Fort Fisher

American Wigeon at the Aquarium pond.

Hooded Mergs

I previously did not add the following bird because I was hoping for a better pic but here is one of the Parasitic Jaegers I saw that week where we had some nice east winds.  This one from the north end of Wrightsville Beach.

Parasitic Jaeger

I went up to the OBX to try for rarities at the inaugural Dare County Rarity Roundup.  Of course we found no rarities.

Bufflehead at Salt Pond

A banded Lesser Black-backed Gull at Cape Point.

Surf Scoter at Salt Pond.

RB Merganser

Another try for Short-eared Owls at Alligator turned up nothing.

Turkey V in Wilmington.

My boys are growing up and smiles are being replaced by annoyed scowls.

Melissa is all smiles after finding a pair of Ray Bans at CB State Park lying in the sand.



I had to fly to Philly for work one week, so I decided to take a short detour to visit my brother in Maine.  10 minutes after picking me up from the airport, we were on this South American beauty that has been blessing Mainers for the past several months.  I just checked and it is still there despite a couple snow storms.

Great Black Hawk

This will be a great one for a "Birds Pooping" album.  Not many folks in the ABA region have a Great Black Hawk pooping shot.

Back home in Wilmington, I had a first for my yard list...

Fox Sparrow under my feeder.

Common Eiders have been plentiful in Wilmington lately.

Orange-crowned Warbler at FF.

Wilson's Snipe at Ashley HS.

Tundra Swans are pretty uncommon in Wilmington, these were at Fort Fisher.

Common Eider at Wrightsville.

In the new year I will start surfing again.  No time for it now.  Need ..... to..... get ..... birds....

Coyote at Fort Fisher

I took another trip to the OBX last weekend to try for Short-eared again and also Snow Buntings.

Coyote or Red Wolf at Alligator?

I stayed in Kitty Hawk and searched first for the Western Grebe seen a few days earlier but I knew it was a long shot.  The waves were epic looking which was just salt in the wounds because I did not bring my surfboard.  Then I hiked all over the Jockey's Ridge sand dunes for 3 hours looking for Snow Buntings.  When that didn't work I drove back over to the south side jetty at Oregon Inlet.

Common Eider at Oregon Inlet south jetty.

BINGO! Snow Buntings just south of the jetty.  They were horribly backlit and in the restricted area so I could not get closer or on the opposite side of the sun.  There was actually 6 of them but I only managed 5 in one shot.

Finally I tried Alligator again for Short-eared and I had what I think was a Short-eared in the distance at dusk but it was too far and too dark to be sure, so I didn't put it on the list.

There were quite a few Black Bears roaming the fields.

Today back home in Wilmington, I searched high and low for some of my targets.  Tried for Harlequin Duck for the umpteenth time at Fort Fisher.  Then I drove to Twin Lakes at Sunset Beach and Ocean Isle Beach to try for some random rare birds that could conceivably be in that area: Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, Common Ground Dove and Mottled Duck are all birds I need for the year.

Best bird was a Canvasback at Twin Lakes.