Winter temperatures have been slow to come this year in Eastern N.C., but they have finally arrived. All the leaves are down and everything now is the grey/brown backdrop of the cold season, Part of what I like this time of year is the way this winter backdrop makes the colors of the birds stand out. Even though bird colors are generally brighter in the spring when it is mating time, the duller glow of winter greatly highlights the blues, yellows, and reds, but also the subtler shades of brown, tan, and rust. The pics below are of our common local species in their winter coats and dresses. Also are a few shots of Fox squirrels which have been seen in excess numbers in the area. Enjoy the pics! And Merry Christmas!
Fall is my favorite time of the year. The birds are adding new visitors as they change locations, and the cool air brings color changes that excite the eye! The Field is turning tan and brown and offers a nice backdrop to the wild Coreopsis blooming there this time of the seasons.In addition to the birds and flowers, deer and Fox Squirrels have been abundent this fall. This backdrop to my efforts to capture the birds living or passing through the area add to the enjoyment of being outdoors and trying to get that “perfect” picture. It is truly a privilege during our “Covid Period” to be able to be in an environment that affords no worry about getting the virus. I am truly blessed!! The pictures below were taken during the period of Sept. 15-Nov. 14. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did taking them!!See below.
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During this Time of Covid we are all suffering through, it is great to be able to get outdoors and mingle with the critters and enjoy the places where they call home. There is no place I would rather visit, however, than this always bird productive spot. All said, I think it is my favorite that I’m privileged to visit frequently. I have never been here and been disappointed. All seasons provide excellent birding, with woods birds, wading birds, raptors, shorebirds, and others--all within a 4 square mile area. Being there a couple of weeks ago was one of my few trips away from home since the pandemic started. It is fitting that my last time here in late February was my last trip away from home. So this was a special time for Glyn, my wife and I, to be here. We always enjoy the Park, but we tend to “pig-out” on the excellent seafood in nearby Murrels Inlet.
A variety of birds were plentiful this trip, including Wood-storks Tri-colored Herons, terns, ducks, White Ibis, Great Egrets, Black-backed Night Herons, Anhinga, and my favorite water bird, the Roseate Spoonbill. They are normally here in the fall and this is about their northernmost limit as they are usually found in Florida and further south. There were some migrating warblers, but I did not get pics of them because the trees all still had their leaves and getting a shot was virtually impossible. The large birds are much easier to photograph and I got many pics. See below.
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There are many Redtail Hawks in my local area, probably being our most prevalent species in eastern North Carolina. But it is unusual to see more than one or two on the same morning, but last friday in the Field I saw five and could not explain the behavior of two of them. The first two I saw were common events, each one sitting on or flying away from tall trees near field edges, no doubt hunting the area for rats or squirrels. But the other three I saw presented a mystery, at least to me. perhaps one of you out there can offer clarity. As I was driving down one of the paths, I saw ahead a Redtail sitting on the right side of the path and what appeared to be a Black Vulture on the left side. I stopped the car and got out to take pictures. The pictures below are in order as taken. First pic is the Hawk sitting on right side of path and then looking back. A Black Vulture shows up and is sitting on the left side and the two are in a standoff. A second Hawk appears over the scene and circles around and lands on left side beyond the Vulture.Later the 2ond Hawk flies at the Vulture, trying to drive it away, and eventually does. Then the first hawk and the second appear to be in a standoff. The second one flies to the left side of the road and sits. Now the first Hawk flies across the path and confronts the second one and a fight ensues. The second Hawk eventually runs the first one away. The second one sits for a minute after the fight, then finally flies away. Meantime a third Hawk has passed overhead a couple of times during this action. My interpretation of this is that the original Hawk was a boby being trained to fly. The Vulture was a threat and the parent Hawks were trying to protect the fledgling . The problem with this theory is that it was the first Hawk that was the baby and it doesn't make sense that the baby would attack and fight its parent as happened at the end. So, not sure--any theory welcomed.
The other pics are Bobwhites. This is one of the rare areas in this part of the country where you can find wild Bobwhite. See pics below.
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One of the most interesting times for me in The Field is late summer when nesting time is done and the grain is close to harvest, and the birds are using their remaining days to fatten up for the winter or for long migratory flights to their winter homes. Sorghum is one of the favorites of many of the field birds, and during this time you can get some great pictures of them perched on top of the grain stems gorging on the small seed, or the insects hiding there. , Several species feed on this grain in eastern North Carolina. The past few days I have seen Bluebirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Grasshopper Sparrows, Grackles, Doves, Redwing Blackbirds, Meadowlarks,Savannah Sparrows, Blue Grossbeaks, with an early fall migrator, the Bobolink, joining them for the first time yesterday. Bobolinks breed in southern Canada and northern U.S., and winter in South America, covering around 12,000 miles roundtrip each year. They usually feed briefly in this area in Spring and fall(a few days in March/April, and September). They head from here south down through Florida and on to South America. I think they are one of our most striking birds. Both male and female look alike in the fall, but the male dresses in his black and white tuxedo in the spring mating season. See pictures below.
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Earlier this week Glyn and I spent 3 days at the Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, NC. We were able to rent a private condo there and this arrangement made us feel quite safe in regard to the virus. Chetola Resort has a long history, being first built in the 1800s. Check out the orange links for complete descriptions of this super vacation spot. The main lodge and Timberlake Restaurant(named for the artist Bob Timberlake) overlooks a beautiful lake which is filled with lovely Mute Swans and many varieties of ducks, The grounds are covered with a great variety of beautiful flowers which stay bright and fresh in the cool air of the mountain environment. We had dinner 2 nights at the Bob Timberlake restaurant, both times overlooking the lake, The food is excellent! The 3rd night we dined at our favorite Blowing Rock restaurant, the Bistro Roca. If you visit Blowing Rock, be sure and check out this fine eating spot! I walked around the lake and wondered the Resort grounds looking for birds to photograph. What I found are in the gallery below.
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This tiny, short-tailed sparrow has been plentiful this breeding season in The Field. They seem to like the open fields with some clumped vegetation, as well as the thick rows of sorghum planted in some areas. I have enjoyed watching the fledglings flit about the tops of the sorghum grain stems. Many of these birds have nested here this season. This sparrow breeds from southern Canada to the southeast U.S. They do migrate to the southern US and furthur south to Central America. For a complete description of their habitat and behavior, see this link. The pictures below were taken over a period of the last three weeks.
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One of the most striking of our Tyrant Flycatchers is the Eastern Kingbird. With its gray-black back and white underbelly, it has a regal bearing. As an insect eater, it perches on an open branch and waits for its prey to come by, then pounces. It can hover in place and is a very graceful flyer. For a complete description of this bird, see this link. In The Field, I see these beautiful birds frequently in the spring and through the summer, and never tire of watching their graceful flight and regal look.
While they are insect eaters, I have found that they will come to my feeders for one item-- peanut butter balls. For the last several years, a pair have nested nearby and daily come by for their peanut butter fix. They bring their babies and teach them the joy of this delicacy! It is one of my favorite birds and I look forward to their return each spring. The pictures below were taken at The Field.
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Before I get into discussing the star of todays journal, I want to welcome back all visitors to the site, especially the many of you who returned this past week after the site has been down and under repair for so long. I really appreciate that my readers did not totally abandon me after such a long time. I needed to clean up many old archives and I tried to make some parts easier to navigate, especially the National Refuges and the State and Local Parks sections. I believe those areas will now be easier to navigate. During the "off" time, I have been actively birding in my home area. With tne pandemic, travel has not really been possible, but I hope to get to some distant sites this fall if things ease up.I have already posted some recent journal articles covering trips during the spring, and I hope you have had a chance to review those. BUT, A HEARTY WELCOME BACK TO ALL!!
Today, I want to highlight some pics of one of our most plentiful and widespread birds across the country, the Great Crested Flycatcher. They winter south to Mexico, Florida, and other southern locations, and are regular nesters in the US, almost nationwide and into southern Canada. They are cavity nesters and one of their unique nesting behaviors is placing at least one snakeskin in their nest! I suppose this helps ward off other predators! In Cherokee Indian lore these birds have the quality of being "great defenders" of their tribe, and of assuring success in sports. You can usually find them near tall trees that border open spaces. The pics below were taken at Goose Creek State Park and at The Field.
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One of the few things I have been able to do during the Pandemic for recreation and to get out of the house safely is to pursue my photo interests. Fort Macon State Park on the NC coast has always been one of my favorite spots, and so I have been there several times this spring. I have not been disappointed. There are always birds here, and the coastal views are refreshing.
A treat in the spring is the arrival of the Painted Buntings. This area is about the northern boundary of this special bird's nesting range as they come up from Florida and other southern areas. They are more plentiful in South Carolina coastal areas, but you can find them from this area and south in NC. They are such beautiful birds, I am always newly impressed when I see the first one each spring.
The pictures below were taken over several trips here since March. See gallery below.
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