My favorite winter birding destination was the site of my visit on this past tuesday---and was it a fun trip!! It was a clear, blue-sky, cold day after 3 solid days of rain and fog. Beautiful weather for the birds and for taking pix! I did not arrive there until around 9AM, so missed some early action, but the critters were everywhere. The mass of waterfowl is in with tundra swans and ducks in all the impoundments as well as on the lake. I saw no less than a dozen eagles, many herons-black and yellow-crowned, egrets, hawks, and small birds-- There is just no place in our area that compares with Mattamuskeet this time of year! If you have a chance to go, now until mid-February is the best of the year. I hope to get back very soon. BELOW ARE A FEW OF THE DAY's PHOTOS---
Today is the 3rd straight day of rain, fog, and cold--the kind of weather that can be bone-chilling here in the east. Maybe this moisture will hang around until we get a blast of even colder air and give us a white Christmas!! Hope eternal--- I would love to get some photos of the critters in the snow! I have been to the field several times in the past month, but the critters are harder to find now, and most all summer visitors are long gone. The field is totally browned out with only a few of the edge pines showing green. There are a few holly trees with lots of red berries to brighten things up for Christmas. The deer and turkeys are still poking around the dead high gear looking for a few pieces of grain that fell earlier. The tops are totally stripped with no sign of the plentiful crop from the summer. I did get a few shots of deer, turkey, and a neat pic of the elusive fox squirrel. Visiting the Field this time of year is always a little bitter sweet--I miss the greener days and plentiful birds---but I am also reminded of the cycle of life and the seasons-a time now for reflection, being thankful for the good times of the year, cuddling up in the warmth of the house , and enjoying good food and drink--and dreaming of the next spring that will renew it all again---- BELOW ARE A FEW PIX FROM THE PAST MONTH
My wife and I were blessed to share the Thanksgiving holiday with my son and wife, her mom, and two grand boys. Thursday was turkey day with all the trimmings --yuummm!. In spite of eating too much including pieces of the pecan pie made by my daughter-in-law, Mike and I were able to(barely) survive a game of backyard football with the boys--I am still sore--- Friday was a day of more eating and a little football--the girls joined the masses at the shopping venues for a little early Christmas shopping-and then we all rediscovered the leftovers . The cake and pie were getting increasingly better as the day progressed--
On Saturday, Mike and I headed to the Yadkin Valley wine country seeking to catch a few trout. We were headed to this beautiful, rolling hills area of the state just northwest of Winston-Salem. We had decided to stay at the Hampton Inn located near Dobson, NC and just a half mile from the Shelton Vineyards, one of the great winemakers in this evolving wine country. This location would put us close by the Mitchell River, and Stone Mountain State Park's Roaring River, a fine trout stream. These two rivers are part of The NC wildlife's program of delayed harvest stocking, which was done in October, so we were reasonably assured of the trout being there My son and I do not get to share these type outings very often and we always cherish the time together to share, re-bond, and try to explain to each other who is the better fisherman! In this venue, I am at a disadvantage---I grew up in flat country as a bass fisherman with cane poles and spinning gear-and if you follow this journal, you know that I hang out in the flat country of eastern NC and low-country SC where the only trout we see come from the coastal saltwater. Add to that I have NEVER caught a fish on a flyrod and this is my first real fly fishing trip!! I figured though that my superior overall fishing skills and wisdom of age would keep me in the game. :)
We went straight to the Mitchell River and were fishing by 1PM. the temperature was 38 degrees when we started and fell steadily. Mike started fishing first. I wanted to give him a chance so he would not fuss later about having to help his old man get started, etc. Plus it was cold as hell and the bank was steeper than I appreciated! I got out the Camera to record the unlikely possibility that he would hook up. By some miracle, he had a rainbow snared on his second cast--pure luck--- But i got the picture of the rainbow. Before I could get my hand warmer working, he had caught or hooked four.Just a lucky start!! He allowed me to get in his spot, and on my second cast, I snared a rainbow(thank you Lord!). I hooked and lost another, then turned it back to Mike. We had apparently cleaned out the spot or scared the rest away. After trying several more spots, we decided to head back to the Hampton to check in, warm up and catch a little of the Duke-Carolina game. After Duke spanked the Tar Heels, we returned to the river and fished until sunset-- and added another fish--Mike's--- On the way back to the room, we were able to get a great photo of the sunset. We had reservations at the Shelton Vineyards restaurant at 6:30--while we were getting ready, we watched the Alabama-Auburn game on TV--Alabama was ahead when we left. Our dinner was super at this fine restaurant. The Hampton is a great place to stay if you are going to fish the local streams or just visit the wineries in the area. There are 10 close by. At the end of a great dinner, Mike checked his cell phone and we high-fived Auburn's stunning win over Alabama. As an LSU graduate, I am always happy to see Alabama and Saban bite the dust! What a great day! The weather was cold but clear, we caught fish, had a great dinner, saw beautiful country, and our teams won!!
Saturday morning, after a good breakfast at the hotel, we headed the 25 or so miles to Stone Mountain State Park to try the other stream. It was a great clear, blue-sky day. This area is really pretty with rolling hills, many small cattle farms, and the vineyards. The river that flows through the Park is classic trout country with great fast water and slower pools--a gorgeous stream. Our luck was not as good as the previous day, but Mike caught a rainbow and hooked a few more. My only luck was a hookup which threw the hook after a brief fight. Catching fish is always good, but just being there in that beautiful and tranquil place was great! Before we could soak in enough of this environment, the old watch said 1PM, our goal for heading home. We ate lunch at the old country store at the entrance to the Park. While there, we met the owner of the jones von drehle winery, who gave us info and invited us to visit. The winery was on our route, so we stopped by and were graciously given a tour of the facility by the owner after sampling the wines. They had produced their first wine this past year and are still growing.
It was a great trip and much fun with my son. Even though he beat me fishing this time, the overall game isn't over! Just wait 'til I get him on the bass ponds down east------- SEE PICS BELOW
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Jerry Lotterhos is a retired professor who resides in Greenville, N.C.