Sunday, July 18, 2021

Quick Trip to the OBX (17Jul2021)

The wave forecast looked decent and the Pacific Golden-Plover was still hanging out at Salt Pond on the OBX so I woke up early (2am) and headed out Saturday to test my luck.  The plan was to bag the Pacific Golden and then surf for a couple hours before taking the ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke and then to Cedar Island so I could listen for Black Rails.  Of course the best laid plans rarely unfurl as anticipated.  Thankfully the first part of the plan worked like a charm.  I made it to Salt Pond around 7:30 am and although it was already hot and sunny, the light was not bad.  Slowly making my way around the sections of Salt Pond that you can walk around, I ran into many Spotted Sandpipers.

In the distance I spotted two birders, one with a distinctive scope.  It was Sam C and Marcia L!  I headed over and they were already on the Pacific Golden-Plover.  Gird yourself for a terrible record shot....

Pacific Golden-Plover - way over on the other inaccessible part of Salt Pond.  It allowed good scope views and we could clearly see the long legs, long tapered wings, mottled white & black under tail coverts and the pretty thick white flanks separating the wing and belly.  Not sure if we would have been confident if it had not been seen and photographed by others much more closely in the week prior.  It did extend its wings at one point showing the unmarked gray under-wings but I was not quick enough to photograph.

The white flanks a bit more visible on this terrible shot.

This Rambur's Forktail was chilling at our feet while we peeped the Plover. Note the completely turquoise segment 8 differentiating it from an Eastern Forktail.

As we worked along the edge of the Salt Pond to get closer to a Tern flock that included some Black Terns, we got distracted by an unusual sight.  The very low water levels were bringing reclusive birds that are typically hard to photograph out into the open.

A very pale looking Least Bittern.  

I can honestly say I have never had a King Rail and Least Bittern in the same shot before.  These are two species that can be hard to photograph at all let alone out in the open as a pair.

Look at those feet!  Perfectly adapted for making its way through the reeds.

I played with my exposure compensation since the sun was reflecting against this pale bittern.

Pectoral Sandpiper - it seems early but they do surprise us by being one of the first to come back from breeding territory.

It was difficult to keep them both in focus but I can't resist a two-for-one.

King Rail

Stilt Sandpiper.

This welcome distraction did lead to the Black Terns slipping by before I could crush them with my lens, but I was happy with the wader photoshoot and headed off to try and get some waves.  Most of the spots around Buxton were holding small surf with the exception of the old Lighthouse which was looking really fun but unfortunately they were holding a surf contest.  I drove around checking a few spots and finally threw in the towel and got on line for the Ocracoke Ferry.  I am still hunting for my nemesis bird the Magnificent Frigatebird and I kept my eyes peeled but no luck.

Somehow I made it to the Cedar Island Ferry terminal by 1pm and then by stroke of luck got on the early ferry.  Initially I had scheduled the 5:30pm with the intent of getting to Cedar Island at sunset and then listen for Black Rails.  So my plan was thwarted yet again and I was not about to wait 5+ hours at Cedar Island for dark.  I saw it as a sign from the gods that I was destined to eat dinner and hang out with the family and so that's what I did.

Great times!

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