Back to North Carolina

As I look out my window at the white coating on everything ( yes we had our first snowfall last night and its 28 degrees here), I want to revisit our recent trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. So you are going to get to hear about birds and habitat before I once again post our culinary adventures.

If you are a birder you know that habitat is a very important ingredient in your search for certain birds because they don’t all hangout in the woods. So our guide took us to a wide variety of locations where we had the chance to get a wide variety of birds. One of our first stops before we officially joined the group was a pier near the visitor center in Morehead City. It was 72 that afternoon and calm.

Morehead City visitor area dock

The dock had laughing gulls and ruddy turnstones walking on it. Look out in the distance to that bridge, yes, the one way far out….that’s the bridge we would eventually cross over to get to the Outer Banks.

The next day our guide took us to Harkers Island where we took a liesurely walk around Willow Pond. This was a wooded area around an inland body of water. Quite tranquil. Highlight of that walk, a juvenile little blue heron which means he is white not blue. Birding can be tricky.

Juvenile Little Blue Heron

Next stop Carrot Island and the Rachel Carson Estuarine Reserve. An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it.  In this case, Carrot Island is an eco-system which is home to clams, whelks, shrimp, crabs and birds. The island also has a large herd of wild Shackleford horses. We were warned that we would need waterproof footware and also strong legs and hardy spirits.

Thick grass and inland waterways.

Mud flats

We walked through it all. Saw lots of fiddler crabs, lots of mud clams.

Wild Shackelford “Pony”

semi-palmated plover

My shoes held and besides wild horses we also saw a very nice collection of birds which included dunlins, tricolored heron, white ibis, black-bellied plover, American oystercatcher and semi-palmated plover. It was a long day, trudging through some tough grass and shoe sucking mud, so even though my bed was kind of lumpy, that night I slept like the dead.

On our last full day we were told a weather front was expected so “layer up.”  Also waterproof shoes would again be a good idea. Off we went to the Croatan National Forest, 68 degrees, clear.

That’s Curt, second from the left. Wave Curt!

The trees are longleaf pines and underfoot is wiregrass. We saw some interesting birds, brown-headed nuthatches and a bachman’s sparrow – missed the red cockaded woodpecker, darn!! – but what a great botanical sighting.

Venus Flytrap

I am sure you have all seen Venus Flytrap in a plant store or you may have even owned one but this little carnivorous plant is native to only five counties in North and South Carolina in the United States, specifically in a 60 mile radius of Wilmington, NC.  Wow! To find this was exciting and for size reference, notice the arm of the eyeglasses pointing at the plant.

Back in the van we traveled forty miles to the east, Fort Macon State Road on the Atlantic Beach and the cold front has arrived. I’m wearing a hoodie, a quilted jacket and a rain windbreaker. Half of the group stayed in the van but a hardy four joined the guide and hiked through the sand to the ocean.

Curt and Paul flank our guide, John Fussell. Carol and I are standing behind them while I take the picture. We walked out here because our motto was, “In for a dime, in for a dollar.” No room for wimps here. What did we see? Double crested cormorant, brown pelicans, northern gannet, common loon. Yeah, it was worth it.

Brown Pelicans

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