Spring is in full bloom at the park now. Many of our nesting birds are back and hard at work building nests and trying to convince potential mates that they would be a good partner. The geese and ducks are far ahead of the pace with babies already in tow, paddling like crazy to keep up as the adults drag them back and forth across the ponds looking for food. The waterfowl are usually ahead of the other species getting families started in the spring. I have seen Canada Geese, Mallard, and Wood Duck babies in the past few days. They are all cute and if you haven't been there, you are missing a treat. Kids are usually delighted by the ducklings--so take the family and spend a relaxing spring afternoon--- See pics below---
In south Louisiana where I grew up, everyone had a purple martin condo--an elevated set of gourds with entry holes, or a house with multiple entries. My Dad built an elaborate 40 hole apartment and it was filled every spring with this swift flying acrobat of the air. At his farm, my Granddad's version of a martin village was 10 raised poles with 10 hanging gourds spread over about a 50 yard area. They too were always filled and I would spend many spring and summer days just watching the martins antics and remembering how much fun I thought it would be to soar and dive like they can, catching their insect meals in mid-air.
Between Grifton, NC, and Vanceboro, NC, on Hwy. 102 is a unique place to visit called Yoders, which is comprised of the restaurant called the Dutch Kitchen, and the Farm and Hardware store. If you want a fine breakfast, and a chance to shop in a unique farm and hardware store, where you can buy anything from thimbles to tractors, take a morning and visit this neat place located in the heart of the thriving Mennonite settlement in the area. The food is super, especially the baked goods which are so delicious, you will want to take home a weeks supply! You need to expect to wait a bit, because there will be many there to dine. Waiting is not a problem though, because you can wander around the Farm store while you wait.
My wife, Glyn and I go there occasionally for breakfast and always enjoy it. Two Saturdays ago, we visited and there was a long line, so we headed to the store. In the front and side were several purple martin condos, made of what appeared to be fake or synthetic "gourds". There were purple martins everywhere, and many folks waiting to eat were sitting in rockers out front watching them. I looked around the store a while, then remembered that I had my camera in the car and decided to go out and take a few shots of the Martins. They are our largest Swallow and nest in the Southeast and West in the spring. After breeding season they gather into large flocks and return to South America.. The males are black with a bluish-purple sheen and the females are a lighter brown. They are very communal birds and nest in community groups, with nests very close to each other. This day, they were busy nest building, and a few already had new eggs. The females usually stay inside the nest and the males forage and bring food for the female, as well as materials for the nest. I was able to get some neat shots of this activity. I was amused at males' efforts to sometimes bring nesting sticks or straw that was too big or stiff to get through the entrance! They would try again and again, sometimes flying out a few feet then trying to slam the item into the hole! It appeared that adjacent females, with their heads poking out a nearby hole, would be amused at the boys dilemma.
This is a great place to spend a Spring morning! Go eat some good cookin' and sit out and watch these great acrobats work and play!!
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I have visited the Field several times in the last couple of weeks. A part of the area is freshly ploughed, getting ready for the planting of this years crops to provide cover and feed the critters. Most of the wildlife I saw was along the field edges and around the creek. Spring is clearly evident everywhere in the greens and reds of the new buds and leaves that have arrived. In spite of cooler days this past week, the warm season coming is already evidenced by the arrival of many dragonflies, the sunning of turtles in the creek, and the arrival of a few spring bird migrants. I have not yet seen many of the warblers who nest here, and the Blue Grosbeaks haven't appeared, but I expect to start seeing them in the next two weeks. There are Prothonotary Warblers starting to nest in the creek area. It is great to see things blooming again, with all the promise of the long season to come.
The critters I have seen here and been able to photograph include a fox squirrel, a Yellow Slider turtle, several dragonflies, hawk, Perula, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, male Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Harrier,Prothonotary Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, a few Grackles and others. See some pics below.
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Sunday(yesterday)., Glyn and I took a pontoon boat ride around the Hammocks Beach/Bear Island area. What a neat trip, leaving the Hammocks Beach State Park dock around 10AM and returning a little after noon. The trip was sponsored by the NC Coastal Federation in conjunction with the park. The trip was guided by the very knowledgable Joanne Powell, whose bird ID skills are phenomenal! We saw many varied shorebirds and wading birds, in addition to a few other species. Shorebirds included many of all types of egrets, herons, dunlins, yellowlegs, oystercatchers, grebes, loons, whimbrels, tri-colored herons, sanderlings, terns, gulls, plovers, many "peeps", etc. I have not seen this many wading and shorebirds in most places I go along the coast. The huge labyrinth of canals, cuts, and small marsh islands(some of which are covered with maritime forest), offer a super habitat for these birds. This was a very pleasant and productive trip. The covered boat was a smooth and comfortable ride with nice soft seats. I highly recommend this trip to you. The Park and the Coastal Federation do these in the spring and fall and you have to pre-register to get a spot. Stay in contact with the park and the Coastal Federation for information. Better yet, join the NC Coastal Federation and get news about all their events. They work to protect the coastal area's resources and wildlife.
This is a great birding area and offers beautiful views of the sound and ocean. GO!!! See pics from the trip below and check out the main page for this site on this website.
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The great warm days continue and more and more critters are showing up to play in the sunshine. I have been fortunate to spend a couple of hours there each of the past two days and I urge you to go and take a walk while the new growth on the trees is fresh and the small wildflowers are blooming. The wisteria are blooming and hanging from the trees around and over the front pond. The spring bird migration has tuned up this week and I saw today my first prothonotary warbler of the season. They will be nesting soon . I also saw an orange crowned warbler(my first at River Park), and a Prairie warbler. There are also many yellow-rumped warblers around.
There were many grackles probing in the soft mud and leaves around the ponds looking for a snack. These birds look solid black until you see them in the right light and their iridescent colors are striking.
There were Yellowlegs visitors dining in the mud flats at Parker's Creek on Thursday because the water had gotten very low and they could probe for worms there. But on Friday, they were gone because the water had risen again and covered the flats.
There were turtles and snakes sunning and butterflies are showing up now in good numbers that will only increase as the weather stabilizes at a good warm level. The Ospreys seem to have settled in at their "new" high nest. I got a fair picture of one of them being harassed by a crow. I am looking forward to the next few weeks as the spring migrants grow in number---Better get out there if you haven't been!!! See pics from the two days below.
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I was at River Park North on Wednesday and would you believe the temperature was 85 degrees!! I was pleased to feel such warmth after this long winter, but it seems in this Atlantic Coast area we go from winter to summer, skipping over those 70 degree true spring days! Anyway, what a beautiful day! I did not really see many birds, but spring growth is really evident. I got so caught up in taking pics of the new multicolored tree buds that the birds were taking a backseat waiting to get their mugshot made. I did get a pic of a lone male tree swallow just sitting quietly up high on a branch. In fact, his lack of movement made me wonder if something was wrong--you don't usually see these guys sit still for long--but he was there for at least 45 minutes as I was looking around the area. Perhaps he was waiting for his honey! He finally flew away looking as if he was OK.
I also will have to correct my observation from a couple posts ago that the Ospreys had adopted their new platform built for them by the power company. Instead, they have built their nest on top of one of the new very tall poles. I guess the shorter one just wasn't to their liking! They did put a few sticks on the new platform, but in the end have built an elaborate nest back at a higher level. See pics below.
There are a few bird pics below, but the lure of new tree growth sidetracked me into doing some photos that I don't normally do--pictures of new tree growth. These new buds and leaves are quite striking and are in so many color shades and textures that I was captured and couldn't leave them alone. I hope they bring you a little taste of the new life coming--better yet, get out there and see for yourself!!
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Today was warm and clear, with the promise of true spring weather to linger for awhile. I went to Goose Creek State Park for the first time since last fall and spent the morning watching the returning Ospreys work on their nest for this years hatchlings. This pair of Ospreys have nested each year for the past 10 right on the shore of the Pamlico Sound within the park boundary. I did see a lot of Ruddy Ducks on the Sound and one lone mallard hiding in the grass near shore. But I mostly just sat in the warm sunshine and watched the Ospreys who were not happy with my presence--they buzzed me a few times and screeched at me so much that I left after a few minutes, realizing that I was disturbing their peace and slowing down their nest building. I retreated to about a quarter mile away and they returned to their routine bringing new sticks to shore up the long-standing nest. I was able to get some nice photos--and left with the nice feeling that things are truly starting to look like spring really will return after this hard winter! See pics below---
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