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.