Near Morehead City, NC, these two sites can be easily visited on the same day. Catch the Calico Creek site at low tide for best birding and the Fort Macon site is always better in the morning, but is good all day. They are about ten miles apart and are easily accessed.In May, it is possible to see migrating warblers as well as Herons, Ibis, and other shorebirds. At the Creek, I saw Oystercatchers, and my favorite Black Skimmers catching breakfast .. There was a Shiny Cowbird at the Fort, back from last year’s visit. Painted Buntings are usually present in season here as well. I spent a couple of mornings last week visiting he two sites and the pictures from that trip are below.
This time of year is probably my favorite to be photographing our bird friends. Everything is a renewal and a resurrection of life. The air is fresher, the sky bluer,the trees greener. It gets an old man up and going in the morning!!. The return of all our local summer residents is a bonanza of photo opportunities. I have seen and gotten pics of many old friends already. Along with the many species seen in The Field previously, it has been exciting to see two new species that are “lifer” birds for me, as well as seeing my first male Bobolink here. After the male Bobolinks had left, a few females showed up and stayed for a few days. The new species seen are the Blackpoll Warbler and the Dicksissel. These are firsts for me and no one else has seen them here before. There are large numbers of Blue Grosbeaks, King Birds, Common Yellowthroats, and Indigo Buntings in The Field this year. I have also seen White Eyed and Red Eyed Vireos.Eastern Meadowlarks and Red-winged Blackbirds are building nests in the tall grass. The pics below are from the last four days. Enjoy!
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In the world of birding there are many surprises and that is one of the things that is addictive about it for me. To see a new bird or unexpected one in an old familiar spot is always exciting! Here in THE FIELD there have been many such events for me over the years, but few can compare with what happened here last week. I had set out Monday morning to try to get pictures of new nesting Red-winged Blackbirds who annually breed here in large numbers, competing with Meadowlarks for space. There were many males around perching on low stalks in the fields, calling and displaying for the ladies. As I looked at one likely male to photograph, I realized that it looked smaller and then saw what appeared to be yellow on the back of its head. Getting closer, I was quite surprised to see that it was a male Bobolink!!! Now I have seen Bobolinks here before, occasionally in the spring migration, but always females, and always for only a few days. I had never seen a male. I have also seen them in the fall here, but since males and females molt to look alike in the fall, it is not possible to distinguish them apart then. The bigger surprise was to come a little later. Bobolinks are rarely seen in our area, being more likely along our coastal habitat further east. A few minutes later, I was surrounded by several hundred Bobolinks singing their cheerful, bubbling, jangling boisterous song. ( Imagine a hundred of Star Wars’ R2--D2s singing Jingle Bells out of unison!! )
The real surprise was that these were all males!! There was not a single female among them! I am not sure whether males and females migrate separately and will try to research whether that is true. These are beautiful and fascinating birds to me and i want to review here some interesting facts about them:
---They are probably the songbird champions for migration, annually traveling some 12,000 miles from their nesting grounds in the north U.S. and south Canada to their wintering site in lower South america.
---They molt twice a year, once in spring with the male developing their classy black front and white back, with the striking yellow-gold nape at the back of their head. They are the only songbird with a completely black front with a white back This look has been described as a “reverse tuxedo” appearance. (see pictures below). The females are a Buffy yellow in spring and fall, and the males look very similar to the females in the fall.
---They are in the blackbird family, and the Species name is Orizyvous, meaning rice-eating.
--In migration they are able to orient themselves to the earth’s magnetic field with iron oxide in hair bristles inside their nose cavity. They also orient to the stars on clear nights.
---they are day eaters, but may feed at night on starry nights during migration.
--they are rice, grain and seed eaters, but feed the young on insects because of protein needs.
The presence of these birds here in no doubt accidental, as part of their migration. There have been reports of breeding birds in western North Carolina, but not in our area, although I have, for the past few years, been suspicious that they breed here in The Field because of sightings of female birds here in spring and fall. But the absence of observed nests and male birds diminishes that speculation.
If you want to see Bobolinks, the best place I can recommend is the Savannah National Wildlife Preserve near Savannah, Ga. Go in early May and you will see thousands in the old rice fields which are now a part of the Preserve. These birds have diminished in number in recent years and are on the Watch List. the primary problem in North America has bee loss of nesting areas due to land use changes, shrinkage of hay production, etc. In South America, these birds are shot, and captured and sold as pets..
I saw and photographed these surprise visitors for 2 days, then they were gone on to the nesting sites further north. Their visit was a true delight and blessing for me. I hope you enjoy the pics below as much as I enjoyed getting them!!
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