Saturday, December 5, 2015

Not That Type of Kitty

12-5-15

    Yes, birders, I'm talking about that type of kitty, the kittiwake, which is a species of gull that got its name from the sound it makes. Believe it or not, there are only two species of kittiwakes: Red-legged and Black-legged. The latter was just recently found on November 30th at Pickwick Landing State Park in Savannah, TN. Black-legged Kittiwake was one of two birds on a long list of Hatteras' winter pelagic specialties that I did not get this February, so it seemed that with all the positive reports as of late, it was worth a shot. 
    Five of the seven Walkers decided to come along for the ride (ok, maybe the littlest two were forced against their will). It was a three-hour drive, and we were relieved when we finally arrived. Several other birders were already there, and fortunately they said they had seen the bird. However, it took us about an hour to re-find it. Finally, we spotted it sitting on the distant railing just below the dam.  I was thrilled - it was my 340th lifer and I absolutely love gulls - and I tried to get the best photo possible, but all I could manage was a crumby digiscope. Still, now I have a picture to look back upon and say, "Oh, I remember this!"


That gray and white blob is a Black-legged Kittiwake, my 340th lifebird.


    Unless I have yet another impromptu outing, my next birding adventure will be on December 19th, when I'll be doing a Christmas Bird Count in Northwest Tennessee. Be on the lookout for a new post shortly thereafter!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Two More Lifebirds!

    I've been birding for nearly five years now, so it's very uncommon for me to get a liferbird here in my home state of Tennessee. The other day, though, I got not one but two!
    My Dad, my youngest brother (Matthias), and I chased a juvenile Common Gallinule that had been staying at Lake Hiawatha in Crossville for several days. We arrived at around 10:45 AM on Wednesday, October 28. It had been raining continually the day before, and today was no different. My scope was drenched within a few minutes. I was worried that the drizzle might harm the viewing conditions, but fortunately there was no problem. I was excited to see my first wintering waterfowl of the season: American Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks, and Ruddy Ducks. There were several coots as well, and my heart stopped every time one of these - quite similar to a gallinule - swam through the scope. 
    I would have completely missed the gallinule if the white of its flanks hadn't flashed when the bird spun in the water. I excitedly sprinted to my "sidekicks" in the car and tripped in the process (I have a bruise to show for it). Dad came to see the bird while lil' bro stayed in the car. It was a new one for both of us! 
    Since we were short on time, we hurried to our next locations. I wanted to scan Lake Tansi to look for a Surf Scoter that was reported recently, but when we got there, the gate was locked. I forgot to bring my atlas to help us navigate to a different viewing spot, and the scoter wouldn't have been a lifer anyway, so we moved on.
    Barn Owls are frequently found hiding in the silo at the Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness WMA in White County, and having never seen one before, we thought it wise to check since we were in the area. After entering the WMA, a couple of rangers stopped us. "Y'all ain't supposed to be here," ranger #1 said. "It's deer huntin' season." Fortunately, I'm hard to turn down, so they kindly let us (me) check the silo anyway.
    Dad stepped inside the silo first, and then I followed. We looked up and two pairs of beady black eyes peered back down at us. I shivered. Barn Owls do look creepy, but what an awesome lifer! As you might expected I tried to take the best photo that I could:  

Barn Owls, lifebird #336

I love seeing new species and traveling to new places and making memories!


Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Own, Personal Field Guide

    Many birders keep field notebooks in order to study birds in greater detail and to better understand patterns in a species' occurrence. I kept a field notebook regularly during the past ABA Young Birder of the Year Contests, but I've actually deviated from this as of late. I do, however, keep a sketchbook filled with numerous notes for each species. I like to call it "my own, personal field guide".
    The basic idea is that I write down the species' name, and then I record every little detail that I have observed with that species. I do not record birds that I have never seen or heard, nor do I note field marks I have never personally observed, even if I have seen that species before. Here's my first example.


    I am more confident in my writing abilities than in my illustrating abilities, so there are very few drawings in my book. Of the few that I have, most are in black and white. Some don't even show the whole bird. (Below, I used the flash for these photos, so the black colored pencil shines. This isn't noticeable when the book is in your hand.)






    My favorite things to document are bird vocalizations. I have learned a lot about the meaning of a bird's call or song just in our backyard.  


    Lastly, I have a few pages about general bird behavior and information, such as how birds act during especially windy conditions, how they behave during storms, or information about gulls.


    The great thing about keeping this "field guide" is that I can add to it over time. And I know that the more I study birds, the better birder I'll become. 


Sunday, July 5, 2015

(Other) Winged Wonders: The Butterfly World

    Birding has been slow lately, as with most summers here in Tennessee, but our local butterflies have been putting on quite a show. I have spent the past couple of days photographing these small, winged creatures, which were frequenting my flower garden and our neighbor's.

Red Admiral on Verbena

Red Admiral on Verbena

Variegated Fritillary on Verbena

Variegated Fritillary on Verbena 

    I got into gardening just when I began birding, and during 2013, I planted many native, bird-friendly flowers in our backyard. My favorite is Purple Coneflower, but Tickseed (aka Threadleaf Coreopsis) is a close second. Butterfly Weed is also a popular favorite for many insects and hummingbirds in our yard. You may spot any of these in my photos. Another flower in the photos above is Verbena. These are in our neighbor's garden.

Tiger Swallowtail (black "morph") on Purple Coneflower

presumed Horace's Duskywing on Tickseed

American Snout above Purple Coneflower

American Snout on Purple Coneflower

Hackberry Emperor (on our window)

Sleepy Orange on Purple Coneflower


    For more of my butterfly photos, see this album on Flickr.






Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Perspective

   


    A jumble of notes shatters the still air. I roll over, peer at my alarm clock with drowsy eyes, and sigh: 1:28 AM. He must be desperate, that mockingbird out my window. I can imagine him propped on the neighbor's roof, a gleam of mischief and pride in those tawny eyes as he sings relentlessly. This isn't the first time he's woken me, and honestly, I don't mind....


    They return every March and stay through May, causing daily headaches with their ruckus. The males scream from the tree tops in the field behind our house. It's hard to find anything admirable about Common Grackles....


    I love Carolina Wrens - so perky and bubbly in personality. And loud. A pair often occupies the brush pile in our backyard. They have two "wrenlets" that are the size of Winter Wrens, with the little stubby tail(!). Heart-melting....


    Right now, I'm sitting by my open window, just listening. Robins have beautiful songs. Funny how I've never noticed before....


    Dad, Nolan, and I sit in the truck as Chuck-will's-widows, Eastern Whip-poor-wills, and Common Nighthawks add their pieces to the nighttime chorus. I'm speechless. Hearing all of them sing simultaneously is amazing. Farther down the road, an Eastern Screech-Owl is tossed into the mix. Hello, summer evenings in Tennessee....


    I stand at the stern of the boat and let it sink in. I'm currently throwing cat food, fish heads, and who knows what else, to gannets and gulls. My life couldn't be farther from normal....


    Well, we're staring at an Eastern Screech-Owl that's eye-level and only five feet away. I'm not sure whether I should be terrified (look at those claws) or rejoicing at my good fortune. But man, am I getting some killer photos....


    "Here they come!" Two Swallow-tailed Kites appear in the horizon. We followed them north along the highway for several miles, but finally had to let them do the catching up. Elegantly they drift closer and closer until...right over our heads! WOW....


    (Birding really is how you make it - it's all about perspective. For some birding is a competition. Others, a hobby or a passion. But for me, though, it's enjoyment.)


   

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Now (Back) on Flickr!

    Several months ago I joined Flickr so that others could view my best bird photos; however, I wanted a "fresh" start, so just recently I deleted the old account and made a new one. Originally it was to be used specifically for documenting rarities, but I couldn't stand looking at all the trashy photos! So...I invite you to click the link below and check it out! (Disclaimer: Many photos are arranged in a random order right now since I'm updating.) 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cawrarities/





Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Review: Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America: A Photographic Guide

    If you know me, then you know that my favorite type of birding is by boat. I've done eight pelagics (including two winter trips) off Hatteras, North Carolina, and I'm (impatiently) counting down the days until I can go again! Last year, for the 2015 ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest, I wrote this book review on one of my favorite books, Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America: A Photographic Guide written by Steve N. G. Howell. If you have never looked at this book, continue reading this post...

Great Shearwater: Not my best photo, but one that I don't share often. Off Hatteras, NC.

Book Review: Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America: A Photographic Guide by Steve N.G. Howell

Princeton University Press 2012 l 512 pages l $45.00 l ISBN 978-0-691-14211-1
          I first heard about the book Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America through Chris Sloan, who was giving a presentation on pelagic birds at one of our ornithological society's annual fall meetings. This was in 2012, and on my thirteenth birthday in 2013, I received my own copy. I browsed through it a little before my first pelagic trip off Hatteras, North Carolina on July 19th, 2013. Then, after my next few pelagic trips on May 21st, 23rd, and 24th, 2014, I looked at it all the time. I’ve found this book to be quite helpful to me in the sense that it provides the correct approach to identifying tubenoses.

Before I dive into the core of this review, let me start off by copying what is actually included in this book's front cover:

 "Petrels, albatrosses, and storm-petrels are among the most beautiful yet least known of all the world's birds, living their lives at sea far from the sight of most people. Largely colored in shades of gray, black, and white, these enigmatic and fast-flying seabirds can be hard to differentiate, particularly from a moving boat. Useful worldwide, not just in North America, this photographic guide is based on unrivaled field experience and combines insightful text and hundreds of full-color images to help you identify these remarkable birds. "

That one short paragraph pretty much summarizes it. Tubenoses are notoriously recognized for their often nearly identical plumage, uncooperative behavior, and so on. What's more, to get the best looks at them, you have to make the rough trek out to sea, surrendering yourself to sometimes choppy waves and unpredictable weather. But thank goodness for Steve Howell's book Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America. While the author can't calm the seas or magically whisk away squalls, he can and did provide a detailed approach to identifying what is considered by many to be the most complex family of birds in the world.    

Howell's book starts off with a fifty-page introduction. While many of us, and, admittedly, myself included, tend to skip introductions and dismiss them as boring, quite the opposite is true with this one. The introduction begins with rather fascinating information about things I never knew. For example, on page two under the section titled "What are Tubenoses?", it states that some species of tubenoses will even skip a year of breeding to complete their molt cycle! Other engaging information includes discussions on ocean habitats, flight manner, environmental factors, and much more.

The remainder of this book is grouped into families, starting with family Procellariidae (shearwaters, petrels, and other petrels), continuing through Diomedeidae (albatrosses), and ending with families Oceanitidae and Hydrobatidae (storm-petrels). These chapters are broken up even further. Storm-petrels, for example, are divided into three groups: white-rumped, dark-rumped, and distinctive. I really admire Howell's decision to further divide these families into groups (like the storm-petrels). For me, it makes it easier to focus on studying just the white-rumped look-a-likes rather than looking in, let's say, Sibley's field guide, where the white-rumped, dark-rumped, and distinctive storm-petrels are staggered because of taxonomy.

In each species profile is precise, detailed information, such as status and distribution, similar species, habitat and behavior, and wing molt. While someone unfamiliar with pelagic birding may look at the species profiles and think the content a little overkill, it is perfect, covering the basics and pin-pointing key ID field marks.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the superb photos in this book. After all, this has been dubbed a "Photographic Guide." Although not every photograph is perfectly sharp, that's just what makes it useful in identifying birds when out in the field (or rather, out at sea). I've often been frustrated over the crystal-clear, full-frame bird photos that are included in a photographic field guide. This is because, as a birder myself, I know that most of the time the birds will be far away – not up close like field guides show them. This isn't an issue with Howell's book. Actually, it looks like this has become the new norm, with books like The Shorebird Guide by Michael Obrien, Richard Crossley, and Kevin Karlson, and the Peterson Reference Guide to Seawatching: Eastern Waterbirds in Flight by Cameron Cox and Ken Behrens also providing photos from the in-the-field perspective. In short, the photos in Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America show groups of tubenoses or single birds as you would typically see them in the field - under cloudy skies, in bright sun glare, or even in dense fog. These “in-the-field” photos combined with unparalleled species accounts make this a wonderfully practical book.

         This book has likely already been considered a must for all birders, but I see it also as being the foundation in increased interest in pelagic birds. Hopefully, as more and more birders read this book and glimpse the beautiful diversity of tubenoses, this will cultivate an interest in the reader to want to study and conserve these birds. So, whether you’re considering going on a pelagic trip or just want to learn about tubenoses for your enjoyment, this book is for you! Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America is easily one of my all-time favorite books, and I honestly can't wait to see what other books Howell comes out with in the future.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Sidekick Turns Twelve

 
 
One of the "main characters" on Chloe's Birding Blog turned twelve today.
Happy Birthday, Nolan!
 
 
 


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Photos from Spring 2015

    They're here, and more migrants are on the way! Scroll down to see some of my photos from this spring, and check back soon for more!
 
 
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
 
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
 
Swainson's Thrush
 
Veery

Cerulean Warbler

Great Crested Flycatcher

American Robin with nesting material
 
Mallard with 14(!) ducklings

Gray-cheeked Thrush
 
Solitary Sandpiper
 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

If I Saw an Ivory-bill... (Submission from the 2015 ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest)

    Last year I participated in the 2015 ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest, and I was thrilled when they recently announced that I finished 2nd overall in the 14-18 age group, placing 1st in both the field notebook and writing modules. It has been requested that I share a bit of my work, so in this post I have copied one of the essays I submitted for the writing module. I am far from considered an "expert author", but I greatly enjoy writing!

~     ~     ~

If I Saw an Ivory-bill...

    I admit, I have an imagination. Often I'll be struggling over a dreaded algebra problem one second, then the next I'll find myself imagining that I'm walking the beaches of Cape May. My imagination takes me everywhere, so why not let it take me to the swampy Louisiana bayous in search of the presumably lost Ivory-billed Woodpecker? Naturalist, writer, artist, and birder Julie Zickefoose has a chapter about Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in her book The Bluebird Effect. In truth, she inspired me to write this fantasy, for in her Ivory-bill chapter, she has her own version. Hers is the 1999 piece; mine is the 2014 piece. Her piece is her imagination; my piece is my imagination.

    I glanced at the Ivory-billed Woodpecker painting hanging on my bedroom wall. I could almost hear the wing beats of the bird flying through the woods. I could almost feel the weight of the humidity suspended in the air. I could almost smell the stench of the muck and mire from the swamp. For the first time, a desire to search for them, or, at least stand where the Ivory-bill once traveled the bayou, stirred within me. Although I knew there was virtually no chance that I would see my target bird, I decided to traverse the Louisiana bayous anyway.
    Moss drooped from the steadfast cypresses like morning dew on weak grass. Puddles of turbid water engulfed the area and shimmered under the rays of sunlight peeking through the trees. I trudged over the mud, eyes to ground as to not take a false step. The bayou was mostly silent aside from the symphony of Spring Peepers, the occasional warbler of a Red-eyed Vireo, and the sound of the wet ground squishing under the weight of my rubber boots. It felt horribly humid here, and I longed to turn back, but no. I couldn't. I had hardly even explored the swampland.
    So I continued, taking in every detail from the world around me. Two Snowy Egrets catapulted into flight at my approach, and little spiders sped away on the water as my shadow passed. As spooky as the bayou seemed with its uncanny silence, I had to confess, it captivated my interest. There was such a diversity of life here, and this diversity was beautiful - from the quiescent fungi dotting the moist terrain to the songbirds foraging in the canopy. All of nature seemed at peace here, and to think that a bird threatened to extinction was unable to experience this security distressed me.
    The near-silence was broken by the crash of a branch hitting the ground. I looked at the branch, then above where a squirrel leaped to the tree's trunk. Suddenly, a large bird flying through the woods caught my eye. Its wings beats were powerful, and its wings themselves were black and edged in snowy white. My heart stopped. No - it was just a crow, and white from the sunlight was shining on its wings. But what on earth would a crow be doing here? At once, I hurried to where I had last seen the mystery bird disappear behind the broad trunk of a dislodged cypress. I slowed as I neared the tree, but even as I circled it, nothing moved. With my left hand supporting me, I leaned against the tree's grooved bark. What next? The sun was already falling from its zenith, making the bayou seem even darker than when I first got here. I could go back, or...
    A flash of black and white in the distance put me at a sprint in half-a-second. This bird was definitely not a crow. Actually, it wasn't anything I had seen before. I tripped over roots, splashed through puddles, swatted at broken limbs blocking my path. Suddenly, the dry land discontinued and was replaced by deep bayou waters. I could go no further, however, I didn't have to. Nearly one hundred yards ahead, cleaning upright against a tree was an Ivory-billed Woodpecker - the bird that had been tossed aside, believed to be long since gone. Even at this distance I could see her clearly. She was beautiful, clothed in layers of glossy black feathers. Lines of white, shaped like slithering snakes, curved down either side of her neck and ended in broad white patches at her wing tips. A black crest crowned her head, which was held high in a princess-like manner. Her bill was a dagger bleached to nearly white. But it was her eyes that drew my attention. They were the color of lightning bolts, surveying the woods and not letting anything escape notice. A look of royalty and wisdom painted them, yet these were ephemeral as she turned and caught sight of me. Although I remained un-moving, my presence alone was enough to send her fleeing to the heart of the bayou.

    I could continue my imagining, but it would likely go on forever. So now, I look back at the painting on my wall, and I feel almost as if I can say I have heard the wing beats of the bird flying through the air. I have felt the weight of the humidity suspended in the air. I have smelled the stench of the muck and mire from the swamp.
  
~     ~     ~

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hatteras Island: The Land-Birding Perspective

    After several months of impatient waiting, our family's vacation to Hatteras Island, North Carolina, finally took place! It also ended too quickly, but my brother and I, along with our dad as transportation, filled up the week with loads of birding. It would be impossible to cover all the details, so I'll stick with the highlights!   
    All of us were worn out after Sunday's day-long drive, and we only checked a few local spots briefly Monday afternoon. Yet Tuesday, March 17th, began with an early start at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, then a scan at Oregon Inlet, and finally a stop at Bodie Island. At all stops we saw several species of waterfowl, ready for their flight North, and at Pea Island and Bodie Island there were gatherings of American Avocets. Oregon Inlet yielded three Purple Sandpipers and seven Brants (both lifers for Nolan). The three of us also got our first-ever sighting of a Mink here! 

Mink

     Our energy was zapped after those stops, so we decided to head back to our house in Avon. I'm not sure what I was doing - probably skimming through photos from the day on my camera - but my head shot up as Nolan said, "Dad, turn around! That was a Swallow-tailed Kite!!" We were in Rodanthe now, just a couple of towns from the house, but we immediately turned around to re-find the bird. There it was! Or rather, there they were! Instead of one there were two, and we began following them as they traveled North along the sound. Dad thought they might fly over Pea Island, so we hurried to a pull-off at the refuge. We waited for no more than five minutes before two dark specks in the sky started to approach us - the kites! Flying swiftly and swooping gracefully, these birds certainly used the wind in their favor. We held our breaths as the first bird got closer and closer and...right over our heads!

Swallow-tailed Kite #1

Swallow-tailed Kite #1

     To our delight, the second bird passed over eating its meal on the wing!

Swallow-tailed Kite #2

    Although our whole Outer Banks vacation was unforgettable, the Swallow-tailed Kites will always stick out in my mind.

     I had planned to spend the next morning birding Palmetto-Peartree Preserve and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, but those plans were shattered when I heard the wind howling throughout the night and continuing into the morning. I decided it wasn't even worth the trouble birding without being able to stand, so I stayed home while the boys "braved up." (They didn't have anything noteworthy, by the way.)

     On Thursday we made the short drive to Cape Hatteras and spent most of the morning there. After checking the pond near the entrance, we headed over to the old lighthouse site and scoped the ocean. Between the crashing waves we could see dozens of Horned Grebes and Red-throated Loons. A strikingly white and black grebe with a long neck and an alert appearance caught my eye. I cautiously made sure I wasn't dreaming up a yellow bill, and in direct comparison with the Horned Grebes, this bird was much larger. "I think this is a Western Grebe," I called, and Nolan sprinted to me. I wasn't able to re-find the bird for him, so I waved the ID aside as a crazy illusion.
     Yet while I was trying to find this bird once again, I found two Red-necked Grebes floating together - one bird in handsome breeding plumage and the second in molt. Nolan confirmed the sighting, and then he took a scan of the ocean looking for other different species. In the mean time, I was enjoying watching the Forster's Terns plunging into the water and the Lesser Black-backed Gulls flying low over the surf. Then Nolan yelled, "Western Grebe!" So I wasn't crazy after all? I peeked into the scope, and yes, that was the bird! Once again, though, we lost the grebe as the choppy waves blocked our views. It was several minutes before I saw the bird drifting left again, and this time I attempted to snap a few digiscopes. Without a true digiscoping device, I never managed to get a perfect, identifiable photo, but in a couple you could see the black and white pattern of the nape, which reminds me of the pattern on a Black Skimmer. (I will spare readers from the pathetic images.)
     We walked back to the car, then headed to Cape Point, which is an exceptional place to find pelagic species throughout most of the year and to seawatch in the winter. We didn't have an all-wheel-drive vehicle, so we had to walk to the point, but I believe we saw much more than we would have from a car.
     The number of Double-crested Cormorants here, and truly, throughout the whole island, was most impressive. Even photos cannot capture what it was like to see these thousands of birds when they took to the sky.
 
Double-crested Cormorants...a fraction of the group
 
More Double-crested Cormorants

Double-crested Cormorants (and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse)
   
    As we were walking, we saw our first Sanderlings of the day, and although they are very common on the coast, it's always a treat for us inland-ers to see them.

 
Sanderlings (habitat shot)

     We continued to the Point, occasionally stopping to survey the ocean. On one scan, Nolan spotted a line of shorebirds flying low over the water.  I had walked off, letting him identify these shorebirds, but then I heard him yelling. I picked up a few key words: "...not shorebirds...alcids...Razorbills!!!" I tripped over the sand toward him, and looked into the scope as the group of twenty or so birds passed. They were indeed Razorbills - another lifebird for my brother! A group of this size was also an interesting find, as Razorbills typically fly together in small numbers of about three to five birds. Further ocean-viewing yielded other Razorbills, so we decided to hurry to the Point to hopefully see even more of them and get better looks.
     It turned out to be a good idea. We eventually tallied two hundred forty-seven Razorbills! All of them were North-bound, dodging the rolling waves as they fought the wind. The Western Grebe was certainly a good find, but this was even more exciting! Once again, our day ended successfully.

    Friday was a washout; birding resumed on Saturday, our last full day at Hatteras Island. I woke up to strong winds (again), which demolished my last hope to look for the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers at Palmetto-Peartree Preserve, so back to Cape Hatteras we went. 
    An early start on a trail by the salt marshes brought us a Virginia Rail, our first to actually see. Walking along the beach to Cape Point, we saw hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls flying over the water in the distance. I knew there had to be a Little Gull out there somewhere...bingo, I found one adult fluttering over the waves.
     At the Point, we were greeted by one of the most beautiful sights ever:

 
A birder's happy place

    Those, my friends, are gulls, along with a handful of terns and even a few shorebirds on the closest shore. I believe Nolan and I almost had a fist-fight over who was going to use the scope first. I let him have the honors, though, and then I scanned: Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, and Bonaparte's Gulls. There were also two species of terns here: Royal and Forster's. When the group of Bonaparte's Gulls off to the side took to the air, I spotted another adult Little Gull, my second of the day, as Nolan was unable to locate either.
    We didn't scan the ocean long, but nonetheless the Razorbill flight continued, with forty-seven North-bound birds counted. I wouldn't have been surprised if the day's total rose into the upper hundreds if we had stayed there longer!
     On the return walk to the car, we all had awesome, close views of the irresistible Piping Plovers. We also flushed an American Bittern from the wet grass!

 
Piping Plover

       I was in a light state of depression on Sunday, as it's always hard to leave coastal birding. However, just after crossing back into the mainland, Dad made a surprise detour to the Palmetto-Peartree Preserve! This location, which I have mentioned several times in this post, hosts multiple breeding pairs of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. We had never seen this endangered species before, so with the help of eBird coordinates, we made a short, hopeful search. Thankfully, the coordinates were spot on. As soon I rolled down the window, I heard the raspy call of a Red-cockaded Woodpecker! All but the youngest two Walkers hopped out of the car to see them. I probably had the best views, and I even got a (very poor) photo to document the lifer. 

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, lifer #332
    
      Hatteras always sticks out in my mind for its unique pelagic birding, yet I am often pleasantly reminded of the great birds you can find there on land. It may be a while before we return here, but the wait is always well worth it. More photos from our great week are below!


Northern Shovelers at Pea Island NWR (ignore the blur in the corner)

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Boat-tailed Grackle at Oregon Inlet, one of MANY

Laughing Gulls in Avon, very photogenic!

Red-throated Loon at Cape Hatteras Point, an especially close individual

Bonaparte's Gull at Cape Hatteras Point

Brown Creeper at Bodie Island

Fish Crow at Bodie Island, unfortunately in bad light

American White Pelicans at Pea Island NWR, quite unusual for the coast