OBX – The Outer Banks, NC – Part 2

During our recent trip to the Outer Banks, we spent a day going south from Kill Devil Hills, along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, to the Hatteras Lighthouse. Our primary destination was the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, one of the prime birding spots in the USA. The weather conditions included 12 MPH NE winds with gusts to 30MPH, which virtually eliminated the chance of spotting migrant songbirds, our main goal. But we were more than satisfied with what we did see.

Gail at the OBX 2013

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We saw a huge number of Tricolored Herons and White Ibis.

TcHerons and IbisTcHerons

We were fortunate to see this Audubon’s Shearwater.

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We had two target birds when we set out on this expedition. We wanted to see our first Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet. We succeeded on both counts!

The Black-necked Stilt:

Black-necked Stilt 1Black-necked Stilt 2Black-necked Stilt 3

American Avocet:

American Avocet 2American Avocet 3American Avocet 4American Avocet 5American Avocet 7

After a few hours of enjoyable hikes, views and birding, we proceeded to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in North America.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Us at Hatteras Lighthouse

It was fun climbing to the top!

Ferd inside Hatteras LighthouseGail inside Hatteras Lighthouse

We lucked out at the top. The high winds had closed the observation tower, but slowed just enough as we got there to allow us out. Here is a view, without hat as it would have blown off!

view from top of Hatteras Lighthouse

On the way back, we stopped at the Bodie Island Lighthouse and we lucked out again! Not only did we get to walk outside on the observation tower, we were among the first to see the four-year restoration and the actual lighthouse lens.

Bodie Lighthouse

Bodie Island Lighthouse lens

It was a great day on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore!

Bye! 🙂

inside Bodie Island Lighthouse

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the OBX – The Outer Banks, NC.

OBX – The Outer Banks, NC – Part 1

Finally, after living in North Carolina for four years, Princess Gail got to see the Outer Banks! We used our few days to the best advantage!

Our room was a nice surprise. We had made reservations only a few weeks ahead of time, so our rental choices were limited. We stayed at an older hotel in Kill Devil Hills, but our 5th floor room had a glorious ocean view!

Hi, Gail!

Welcome to the OBX

Everyone knows the OBX is a great place for watching the sunrise. This photo from our room’s balcony shows that our sunsets were beautiful, too, despite the definite fall chill in the air and the very stiff winds.

View from the deck

The Avalon Pier in Kill Devil Hills was a short walk from our hotel. The newer boards on the pier were evidence of the damage and repair after last year’s Hurricane Sandy.

AvalonPier AvalonPier2

Besides enjoying our dramatically lovely surroundings, we are of course always aware of the birds around us. We won’t talk about the usual gulls and sandpipers (though telling apart the numerous species is still a challenge), or the evil Boat-tailed Grackles like this one,

Boat-tailed Grackle

but there were interesting birdy moments right from our balcony, like these Brown Pelicans coming…

Brown Pelicans coming

… and going!

Brown Pelicans going

Most people come the the OBX for the beach life, and that is just fine! But when Gail and I travel, we like exploring as many local habitats as we can, always looking for different birds. Just a few blocks from our hotel was the Nag’s Head Nature Conservancy. Beautiful!

Nag's Head Nature Preserve

And besides all the bird stuff, in the same general area is the Wight Brothers National Memorial. I think because we are from Ohio and live in North Carolina, we felt a special awe and pride as we learned the details of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s great work. If you are ever in the OBX, a visit to this memorial is a must!

Wright Brothers National Memorial

A few short miles south, in Nag’s Head, is Jockey’s Ridge State Park. It is the site of the tallest dune system on the east coast, at about 90 to 100 feet. At the base of the dunes is a habitat of maritime thicket consisting of live oaks, persimmons, red cedar, wax myrtle, bayberry, sweet gum, red oaks, and pines. To the east is the Roanoke Sound, providing the park with an estuary habitat.

Jockey's Ridge State Park1

Gail was like a kid, climbing and enjoying the dunes! 🙂

Gail dune1

She gave her bum hip a pretty good workout!

Gail dune2

We spotted a flock of about 200 Tree Swallows, at the peak of their southward migration.

TreeSwallows OBX 9.29.2013 TreeSwallows2 OBX 9.29.2013

In the thickets, we saw a Nashville Warbler, and this sneaky Pine Warbler.

Yellow-throated Vireo

As you can see, the area right around Kill Devil Hills, Nag’s Head and Kitty Hawk is chock full of fun and interesting stuff! But the goal of this visit was to see as much of the OBX as we could in two and a half short days. In Part 2 I’ll talk about our day trip south to Pea Island and Hatteras, and then in Part 3 I’ll talk about our trip north to Corolla/Currituck and a special visit to a great friend! 🙂

 

Our neighborhood Barred Owl!

Finally! After years of hearing the Barred Owl in our neighborhood, today was the day of our first sighting! First we heard it calling and answering a more distant Barred Owl. Later during the same walk, we heard a third separate individual Barred Owl in another location. Then on our way back home, we stopped where we had heard the first owl, and were able to spot it!

Barred Owl

Pileated Woodpeckers at Reynolda Gardens

What a treat to have prolonged views of not one, but two Pileated Woodpeckers doing their thing! They were pecking away huge pieces of bark from a large dead limb of this Tulip Tree. Then they quickly drilled large holes which were surely productive of insect meals, based on the length of time they spent there. They moved around the limb rapidly, as woodpeckers do, but occasionally met up for these brief photo ops. 😀

Pileated WoodpeckersPileated Woodpeckers at Reynolda Gardens

Cape May water birds

Just to add to the previous two posts on Cape May, I thought I’d share a few pictures of some of the water birds we saw.

The most common gull by far was the Laughing Gull:

Laughing Gulls

We often saw Laughing Gulls and Forster’s Terns together:

Laughing Gulls and Forster's Terns

These Forster’s Terns were doing a courtship thing, with the male offering the female a fish, to show he is a good hunter. (She seemed disinterested.)

Forster's Terns courting

I thought this Herring Gull was a beautiful specimen:

Herring Gull

There were also a good number of Great Black-backed Gulls:

Great Black-backed Gull

Because of the Horseshoe Crab spawning, there were hundreds of thousands of sandpipers and other shorebirds. In this picture, the largest bird is a Laughing Gull, the medium sized birds in the foreground with the black bibs are Ruddy Turnstones, and the smaller birds are Semipalmated Sandpipers. There were several other species besides these.

shorebirds

Here is a Piping Plover. It is endangered and closely watched at this time. When one lays eggs on the beach, conservationists quickly build a fence around the nest to keep out predators like Fish Crows.

Piping Plover

A Short-billed Dowitcher:

Short-billed Dowitcher

An American Oystercatcher (sitting on its nest, right in the middle of the beach):

American Oystercatcher

In inland ponds, we saw a number of ducks and geese, including the ever-present Mallards and Canada Geese. We also saw Ruddy Ducks, and these Gadwall:

Gadwall

And these Mute Swans:

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We saw a number of raptors, including Bald Eagles, Red-talied Hawks and a Red-shouldered Hawk. But by far the most visible raptor was the Osprey. Check out the talons!

Osprey

Here’s an Osprey carrying a fish meal back to the nest:

Osprey with fish

Marsh habitats were active, too. There were countless Great Egrets and Double-crested Cormorants. We saw a few Black-crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets, and a random Green Heron. This Tricolored Heron was a life bird for Gail and me:

Tricolored Heron

Other life birds included the Marsh Wren and this stealthy Clapper Rail:

Clapper Rail

This is by no means a complete photo record of all we saw. Like I mentioned a few posts back, in the four days we spent in Cape May we saw or heard 120 different species. It was an awesome trip!

I’m happy to share these pics with you, and truly blessed to always share these experiences with Princess Gail! 🙂

Gail observing