I have a Love / Hate relationship with Airlie Gardens. I love the grounds and the huge oaks specifically. I hate the constant traffic of groundskeepers in their gas powered gators and leaf-blowers and the kitschy "art" like the garden gnomes.
Black-crowned Night-heron adult
And a youngun
American Black Duck
Virginia Rail at Fort Fisher - I find just sitting a waiting silently at this spot off the Basin Trail is the best way to get rails.
European Starlings are everywhere but they particularly love the area around Johnnie Mercer's.
Speaking of Razorbills, where are they?
Belted Kingfisher male
Meanwhile back at Ashley School Ponds...
White-winged Scoter still hanging out.
Horned Grebe at FF
Cedar Waxwings - have you heard that these beauties are dying everywhere because of invasive poisonous exotics people are planting in their yards? I think Nandina is one source. Planting invasive exotics is dumb enough, but for god sakes don't plant poisonous ones...
One weekend mid January I made the annual pilgrimage to Shackleford Banks at high tide and it was beautiful....
On the ride out I was really surprised to see Brant! This was the furthest south I have seen them in NC.
In fact I was so unprepared I didn't have my camera out and by the time I fumbled it out, the birds were too far to get crisp photos.
Red Knot on the bottom - I love trying to identify shorebirds on the wing.
Piping Plover! I ended up seeing about 20 of them which is a good sign that recovery efforts are working despite all the deplorable Piping Plover haters.
Piping Plover keeping an eye on the sky. Plenty of falcons and raptors around.
Semipalmated Plover also keeping an eye on the sky.
Wilson's Plover! This species usually does not winter in NC but we are increasingly getting a few hearty ones. I counted 6 this time.
A nice comparison between Semi up front and Wilson's in back.
White photographing the birds this feral horse just sauntered right by.
Sharp-shinned Hawk - it was an easy ID based on the small size. The males are smaller and easy to ID.
The squared-off tail sealed the ID.
Greater Yellowlegs - bill longer than the head is wide.
And you thought Jesus was the only one that could walk on water...
A fish had a heart attack and this Herring Gull was trying to revive it with mouth to mouth resuscitation.
The gull even tried chest compressions. Unfortunately the fish died. It's a tough world and with human pollution more and more fish are having heart attacks.
Piping Plover - if you look closely you can see him/her pulling a worm out of the mud.
When I get a chance I will submit the color band pattern to find this bird's history.
On the way home I see this huge duck raft on the side of the road....
The Sandhill Cranes near Beaufort have come back again this year.
Last stop was Pringle Rd in the Croatan. The "target practice" crew was at it again shooting the place up. I put "target practice" in quotes because spraying the woods with automatic gunfire is not really target practice unless your target is everything in the woods including trees and whatever else is in the way.
Brown-headed Nuthatches were everywhere chatting up a storm. I wish I could speak nuthatch although I suspect they were cursing the human race.
Red-cockaded Woodpecker - its unfortunate that the best tracts for this species are plagued by gun crazed idiots.
What an awesome circuit. I love Carteret County..