Going to the archives to try and wrap up 2019, I want to share a few more birds taken in eastern North Carolina.
For me, the highlight of visiting Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was visiting the Least Tern nesting colony. They put up a barricade to make sure you do not get to close to the nests and chicks, but it soon became obvious that the birds do a pretty good job at dissuading anyone from getting too close.
It was terrifying watching these birds react defensively, strafing and defecating until I moved back to a point they felt comfortable with. I remember I still had some of their ammunition on my camera body for at least six months before finally cleaning it off.
You have to look really close towards the center of their nesting arena to spot the chicks – the reason for their territorial behaviors.
During a walk along the interior, marsh portion of the refuge, this beautiful Common Tern flew by.
A real treat were my first looks and photographs of Red Knot.
During the same trip, I was fortunate to visit a nice longleaf pine forest habitat at TNC’s Calloway Forest Preserve in Hoke County, NC. Here, along with the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, I got to find one of my southern favorites, the Bachman’s Sparrow.
From the few short trips I’ve been, North Carolina seems to be quite a place for birds and nature.
Coastal bird photographers, particularly those who have access to areas highly trafficked by humans, have really got things easy. We were consistently surprised at how much luck we had getting close enough to our subjects – and this was with visiting these locations for the first time. I can’t imagine the fun to be had with some time, experience and practice.
The Black Skimmer just may be one of the perfect targets for the bird photographer. The species is colorful and contrasty, which is so nice for autofocus. This species is rather large. It prefers to spend time in groups that enable the photographer to capture interesting social behaviors. If you are lucky enough to be at the right time and place, the chicks are unbelievably cute. And, if that isn’t enough, they of course have their namesake feeding behavior that can be seen in the image at the top of this post.
Closely related to the gulls, auks and waders, the skimmers are in the small family – Rynchopidae (roughly translated to beak-faced).
If you inadvertently flush a group, don’t give up or chase. Skimmers have favorite resting places and will often settle to the same stretch from which they flushed.
Steve and I are a couple of weeks back from a nice few days of birding the Texas Gulf Coast. We were able to visit a number of habitats and locations along the gulf and were mostly able to dodge the rains and flood waters.
Of course, we were able to pick up a good list of lifers as the number of specialists, such as this Boat-tailed Grackle, in this region was quite impressive.
Mostly a bird of the new world tropics, the Crested Caracara is considered to be common in Texas. We were able to find a few.
The Spoonbills were quite a treat. At the HAS Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary we were fortunate to visit at a time when the local rookery was in full swing. We observed active nests of not only the Spoonbills, but also of Great Egret, Snowy and Cattle Egret and Common Gallinule.
The Seaside Sparrow may have been my most exciting find of the trip. I have long wondered about this interesting sparrow that sticks to coastal habitats and sings its interesting song. There are currently nine recognized subspecies of the Seaside Sparrow – this one is likely Ammodramus maritimus fisheri. These birds are among the many that are threatened with destruction of habitat for human coastal development. The Houston metro area is a sprawling web of concrete and Steve and I couldn’t help but notice that natural areas were still being bulldozed and paved.
The Tri-colored Heron was yet another lifer for both Steve and me. This gorgeous bird was found with a lovely backdrop of wildflowers at San Bernard NWR, one of several locations that we could have gladly wasted a week in.
That is all that I have processed and am prepared to share for now. More to come. -OZB