Being at Fort Macon State Park in late summer on the last day of August is probably not the best birding time there. Spring , fall, or winter probably offer more variety and certainly cooler weather. We have had a very cool summer in eastern NC, but nature seemed to be making up today with temps in the low 90s and the humidity at 90 percent. But I have never walked the Elliot Coues Nature Trail there and not seen a good number of birds. The pics below were taken there between 9 and 11AM this Sunday morning. The highlight of the day was finally getting a picture of a Painted Bunting in a natural pose(off the feeder). I was able to get a few shots of a male on the feeder, but only one in the bushes along the trail. There is also an interesting shot of both a Painted Bunting and a House Finch together on the feeder. Both birds are about the same size , and both are pretty birds, but the Bunting is still my favorite. The migration should be starting next month and I will return here to catch the parade!! Enjoy the pics.
Last weekend, Glyn and I spent several days vacationing in Charlottesville, Va.. We mostly visited the presidential estate, Ash-Lawn Highland, of James Monroe, our 5th president, and other historical sights in the area. This estate was purchased in 1793 and was a plot of 1000 acres adjacent to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's estate. Known as "Monroe's Cottage", the small four room house was the family home for 24 years. During this time Monroe added a two story wing to the original structure. President Monroe's mansion at Oak Hill was his home only for 4 years from 1827-1830.
This is a beautiful area and the estate has great views of the mountains and of open pastures. Our time in the area was very limited and I was not really planning to do much birding, but decided to walk around the grounds of the estate for a while before it opened for a formal tour. Unfortunately the morning was cloudy and foggy, not really good for photography. But I was curious to see if I might see some of the local species in the area which we do not have in eastern North Carolina during the summer, including Black & White, Worm-Eating, Hooded, and Palm warblers as well as the American Redstart. I was able to spend about an hour and a half wondering around the field edges and even though it was a terrible photo day, was able to get a few fair bird shots. One of the interesting sights was the amount of wild blooming chicory in the fields.I was able to get several species in the short time I was there, and I suggest if you visit here, take a stroll--the birding is great!!
See pics below with some shots of the house and grounds---- Please excuse the poorer picture quality---
This past week, Glyn and I were fortunate to be able to spend a few days in the Pawleys Island area of South Carolina with our two grandsons, James and Jack. Most of the time was dedicated to them and I did not have a lot of time to take pictures. I was able to get out to Huntington Beach State Park early one morning before the boys were up. The tide was out in the marsh and there were a few shorebirds catching their breakfast--Tri-colored Herons, Snowy Egrets, and a small flock of White Ibis.
It is always interesting to see these birds use their wings to shield their eyes from the glare on the water and improve their chance of catching the small fish and minnows they are stalking. I was able to get a few shots of the Tri-colored herons doing this, and a great series of shots of one of these guys stalking and catching a small minnow. See below. I became aware of an alligator close by the Herons when one of them walked up close and looked curiously into the grass. The gator moved out into the open and the Heron continued to follow and watch. The birds showed no fear, but kept a safe distance. I have read that shorebirds have a somewhat symbiotic relationship with the gators because the gator's presence keeps other predators away.
While watching the Herons, a few Snowy Egrets flew in. These are such pretty birds, I can't resist taking a few pictures when I see them.
The action heated up when a small flock of White Ibis showed up. They were feeding in the marsh when a couple of them discovered an eel trapped in a shallow pool maybe a half foot deep. They were able to get the eel out onto the mud and the fun was on. The birds fought over the meal for at least fifteen minutes. Whoever had the eel was running from all the other Ibis who were in hot pursuit!! The winner finally felt the eel was subdued enough to swallow, which was accomplished in about three gulps!! This was an interesting show and I hope the photos below give you a sense of the action!
I returned to the hotel and the boys wanted to go :look for alligators", so, after breakfast we went back and they were able to spot 8 in the area. They were thrilled to see the gators!
Jerry Lotterhos is a retired professor who resides in Greenville, N.C.