Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Calidris subruficollis) - 07Sep2014 and 01Sep2016

Birds that are only found in North Carolina during migration are good birds.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  The Buff-breasted Sandpiper has the added bonus that it mostly migrates down the center of the country and we only see a small fraction come through NC and in fact the Cornell website does not show migration through NC at all.  So if a Buff-breasted is sighted, I am on it.

This particular bird was actually not a chased bird.  We found it blindly at the Cedar Island Ferry Terminal in Carteret County and it was practically tame.  Its too bad that I only had my old crusher at that point.  With my new camera, this bird would have been immortalized.

Update 01Sep2016 - Check out these more recent pics from Fort Fisher Spit.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Eastern Screech-owl (Megascops asio) - 03Nov2013 & 14Jan2017 & 21Apr2017

I might as well continue on the owl thread now that I have started.  The Eastern Screech-owl is a bird I encounter quite often.  In fact I have them in my back yard.  The rub is that they almost never show themselves unless you find a nest box and I think those shots are usually unsatisfying.  So when I found this bird in Carolina Beach State Park and it somehow let me snap a few pics, I was overjoyed.  Although the picture is not crisp due to poor light, I kind of like the ethereal quality of it anyhow.

And here is a red morph from 14Jan2017 in my back yard in Wilmington, NC.

Here is a red morph in broad daylight at CB State Park in April 2017.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) - 10Jan2014

The winter of 2014 was an "incursion" year for Snowy Owls and I was not about to miss my opportunity.  Most were sighted on the OBX, but one was seen on Sunset Beach so I was there first thing in the morning to chase it.  These incursions are thought to be a result of banner years for lemmings up north.  If the owls have a plentiful supply of lemmings, they can have successful broods of more than one chick.  Then when these juveniles get old enough to hunt for themselves, they have to wander off as the older more wise birds have all the good turf staked out.  Or maybe they just have wanderlust.

These shots were taken with my old camera set up, so you can imagine the bird was particularly obliging.

Look at those feet!

I was watching him for so long that the weather and clouds were changing offering different perspectives.  Most of the shots were awful due to backlit low hanging clouds, but the clouds abated for a little bit and I managed these shots.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) - 06Nov2015 and 27Feb2016

The Burrowing Owl is a bird that has only been seen a couple times in North Carolina in the last 30 years and I think one of those was a dead bird presumed to have been assisted by a truck's grill.  So when I was lucky enough to be contacted by someone that had a lead on a Burrowing Owl at Masonboro Island off Wrightsville Beach, I was ecstatic that he called me.  We motored over first thing in the morning and fanned out.  There was 6 of us and we were following a tip from someone that had seen it the day before.  It didn't take long.  The bird flushed right in front of me and I managed this shot before it landed about 75 yards away.

The above shot ended up being my best because we kept our distance as this was clearly a bird on high alert.  Unfortunately the person(s) that found the bird preferred that we did not publicize the bird so I had to keep it under wraps until eventually it got out.  I understand the view that the bird should be kept undisturbed, but this bird chose a pretty high traffic location and most birders are way more sensitive to it's plight than the hundreds of surfers and fishermen stomping through the area.

Update: I went back in February and re-found the owl and got some better shots.

Below I have added a picture from Arizona where Burrowing Owls hang out on window casings.

Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) - 14Jan2018 and 19Dec2015 & 16Dec2018

The Common Eider is a bird I know well.  My brother lives in Maine so I have seen the many variations in plumage these birds offer.  Its rare to get an adult male in NC, but here is one from the Outer Banks, NC in 2018.

Some more from the OBX in the same spot but 11 months later in 2018.

Here is a more typical brown immature male from Wrightsville Beach.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Red Knot (Calidris canutus) - 15Dec2015

In 2003, scientists projected that the American sub-species, Rufa, might become extinct as early as 2010.  Thankfully this dire prediction has not come true and I see them quite regularly in NC.  Many think the bird's decline has been due to over-harvesting of Horseshoe Crabs in the Chesapeake Bay.  The Red Knot stops there during migration to fuel up on the crab roe.

This photo was taken on the South end of Wrightsville Beach, an especially confiding individual.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) - 13Dec2015

The Canvasback is the largest duck in North America, and probably the best.  It's latin name comes from the fact that its primary diet on breeding grounds up north is Vallisneria americana which is an aquatic plant.  It's common name is surprisingly intuitive, the white back is the color of a blank canvas.  However, I call it by a more affectionate name.... a  Carbunkled Snorfblatt.