The Business Birder Goes Coastal
Hello, my name is John. I have spent more time in
The first step in my new direction turned out to be a “shakedown cruise” for my new scope. Having put off buying a scope for about ten years, until I was a good enough birder to deserve one, I gave up and bought one anyway.
The Lower Cape Fear Bird Club conducted
a trip to
So the shakedown cruise was
November 9 and 10 at
Wait a minute! After further review using The Sibley Guide to Birds, the call in the field has been reversed. It was a Clapper Rail not a King Rail.
The scope was a big success Having the Snipe and Rail in the scope at the same time, as the rail walked past the Snipe, at approximately 60X was priceless. I also filled the scope with the Henslow’s Sparrow, who was only 40 plus feet away. Life is good!
My next outing was the outer
banks trip. My Mother’s birthday was
that Sunday and the
As it turned out, my Mother was going out of town to visit her sister that weekend and both football games were to be televised, so I could watch them. Suddenly, I had a guilt-free birding trip! You know how good that is.
Why feel guilt about missing football
games? Well, for
And now lets move
on to the trip. Our first stop was at
As we drove up NC 94, which traverses a dike that splits the lake, a large bird appeared on my left, flying parallel to the road. I caught up with it and drove along side for a few seconds. It was an eagle, possibly a Golden Eagle. I knew that if I stopped, it would fly away; however, I finally had to pull over and stop to use my binoculars. Of course, the bird banked left and took off. I saw some white on top of its wings. Only our leader, Bruce Smithson, and I saw the bird. Unfortunately, Bruce was a quarter of a mile behind me. We called it a Golden Eagle but further review was inconclusive, so I will not count it because it was probably an immature Bald Eagle.
Our first stops on Saturday were the Pea Island NWR and Oregon Inlet. We added: American Bittern, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Snow Goose (Blue Goose also), Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Northern Harrier, American Coot, Semipalmated Plover, American Avocet, Greater Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Greater Black-backed Gull, Tropical Kingbird, Marsh Wren, Prairie Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, and Boat-tailed Grackle. A Peregrine Falcon was perched on the nesting platform close to the visitor center, giving us the best possible view.
Chasing rare bird alerts is fun. We found the Tropical Kingbird at a dike between the New Field Pond and the South
Another fun observation at
Early Sunday, six of us that got up at to see the Leonid meteor shower before our next birding stop. Two smart members of the group (not me) brought blankets and the smartest even brought a pillow. Thank goodness they shared the blankets, so all six of us were able to lie on the ground and watch from the shoulder of a dark side road of the national seashore.
Can you imagine the sight of six adults lying on their backs staring into in the pre-dawn darkness? It was great, well worth getting up for. Seeing the meteors I mean. We also saw two satellites. I think they were both drakes.
Later Sunday, we
While I cannot count the Golden
Eagle, I have no problem counting the Brant decoy observed on
What a wonderful trip! Going with a group is always therapeutic. Bob, Bob,
I was, however, incessantly teased about my new scope and there was much speculation about its cost. Scope envy is not a pretty thing. Eventually, I returned their fire by referring to it as the Hubble Telescope and revealing that it cost about the same as the Gross National Product of several small countries.
Seriously, they all seemed to enjoy having the scope with us. As far as I am concerned, it has already paid for itself. Having a scope full of Henslow’s Sparrow, Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, and Peregrine Falcon, already justifies the cost! Life is great again!
If you go, the trip from Wilmington to Lake Mattamuskeet is 210 miles, with another 75 miles to the Dare Haven Motel in Manteo (call 252-473-2322), where we spent both nights. They have decent accommodations and very reasonable rates this time of year.
We found a great
meal at Queen Anne’s Revenge in Wanchese, about six miles from the motel. Go there only if you have plenty of
time. They are so slow that we watched
our clothes go out of style while waiting for the meal. OK, I am kidding about the “out of style”
part. Birders cannot be accused of being
slaves to fashion. Queen Anne, if you
Darrell’s in Manteo is faster and serves good fried seafood. The place to go for breakfast is T.L.’s Country Kitchen (doors open at ). Both of these restaurants are a couple of miles east of the motel.
The distance from the motel to the Hatteras/Ocracoke ferry is 64 miles, along Ocracoke Island to the Cedar Island and Swans Quarter ferries is another 28 miles, and the ride back to Wilmington is 140 miles from Cedar Island. Ferry reservations are still a must in November.
birding has ramifications for strange individuals or groups poking around in
remote areas with binoculars and scopes.
I was back in the
Thanksgiving, in the
My next mini-adventure was the company meeting, on
December 3. I was able to spend a
half-day birding on
I found a new source for bird alerts, other that the MAS Web-based Hotline. I bought a copy of the Sunday Boston Globe to read at the hotel that night and found a “Bird Sightings” article, furnished by the MAS, on the weather page. I knew immediately that I should have been at Andrew’s Point in Rockport that day.
The following weekend I tried to find the Snowy Owl
I made several more trips around the
During this period, I enjoyed the activity at a small pond near the NC Aquarium. I watched a Kestrel buzz a Kingfisher that landed in the Kestrel’s tree. The Kingfisher landed in another tree and was immediately buzzed by another Kingfisher. I heard the departing Kingfisher mumble the serenity prayer as he gave up and passed overhead.
As I moved a little closer to the pond, a male and five female or immature Hooded Mergansers swam into sight. They saw me and took to the sky. The male actually flew off in a different direction that the family. If a gender joke even dared to come into my mind at this time, there is no way that I would stoop to using it now. Obviously, it was a survival reflex on the part of the Mergansers. And on mine.
On one visit to the
On December 30, I participated in the Wilmington-area Christmas
Bird Count near Old Brunswick Towne and on
A couple of days later, my sister and I started 2002 off on the right foot with my second annual New Year’s Day birding adventure and found Purple Sandpiper, Horned Grebe, American Oystercatcher, Great Blue Heron, Black Skimmer, and approximately 60 other species in the Fort Fisher and Wrightsville Beach areas. My sister is still complaining about the frostbite.
During the month of January, I made a couple of trips to
the area northwest of the
The Green-tailed Towhee was a
The bird came to the same area each day because (you will not believe this) someone kept spilling bird seed in the area. The last time I stopped by, the Towhee had developed an attitude. It was coming out much more frequently and each time it appeared, it jumped on a sparrow and chased it off before eating more itself. If you are the star attraction, I guess you can throw your weight around a little.
I know I have rambled here. That is what I do, both
literally and figuratively. I do need to
sneak in one more coastal trip. On
February 9 and 10, I repeated much of the outer banks trip, by myself this time. Just rambling, with no specific travel
goals. The only new bird I observed at
I noticed a group of students in a large van at the Pea
Island NWR visitor center, again on the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry, and again at my
Well, the ferry ride to Swans Quarter turned out to be
much more productive that the one to
Finally the end! I feel much better now. I love my life! Thanks for letting me share.
The author, John Ennis, is a full time healthcare
consultant and a part time birder, who wishes that it were the other way
around. He lives in the
John B. Ennis ã 2002