Category Archives: NC

OBX – The Outer Banks, NC – Part 3

On the previous post I wrote about our little day trip south of Kill Devil Hills, along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, all the way down to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. This post is about our day trip on the following day, this time north all the way to Corolla and the Currituck Sound. On our way we passed the beautiful little town of Duck, NC. Duck is arguably the fanciest and prettiest residential part of all the Outer Banks.

A very special part of this day was a planned meet-up with a fellow blogger I have known for several years. We had known each other only through our mutual online community of bloggers, and this real life meeting proved to be a memorable treat! Katherine, writer of the Shoot Me Now blog, and her beautiful daughter Elizabeth, were our guides for this part of our explorations, as Corolla, NC is their long-time, beloved home away from home.

First they proudly showed us around the beautiful Whalehead Club and told us of its interesting history.

Whalehead Club in Currituck

This spectacular property includes the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. It is also home to a great birding site on the NC Birding Trail, Currituck Heritage Park. Just up the road is yet another great birding site on the NC birding trail, the Currituck Banks National Estuarine Research Reserve. It would take years to really know these sites and all they have to offer, in the different seasons of the year. I feel like we just scratched the surface in our few short hours. I hope to someday return and spend much more time here. I can so see why Katherine and Elizabeth love this area!

Here is a brief glimpse of the estuary habitat.

estuary

estuary2

We saw this Belted Kingfisher eating a fish.

Kingfisher with fish

Belted Kingfisher

We walked and talked along this boardwalk in the maritime forest,

Maritime Forest Boardwalk Trail

and on a primitive trail which lead us to another spot on the Currituck Sound.

Live Oak on primitive Forest Trail

Elizabeth, who is a remarkable and impressive young naturalist, spotted this Cottonmouth Snake! I’m glad we were at a safe distance and that it was moving away from us!

Cottonmouth Snake

All in all, we spent a glorious morning together, and I am so happy to have taken the “e” out of our eFriendship! Thank you very much, Katherine and Elizabeth, for this memorable day! :D

with Katherine and Elizabeth

 

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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.

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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! :-)

 

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Pilot Mountain Birds of the Day

Princess Gail and I spent a beautiful fall morning at Pilot Mountain State Park. We spotted 15 bird species, including the ever present Pine Warbler, and lots of Blue Jays (a group of 4 and then a group of 10.) Here are the birds of the day:

A Scarlet Tanager (probably female vs winter male)…

a Red-breasted Nuthatch

and a Broad-winged Hawk.

It was a fun time! Wish you could have joined us! :-)

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Big Fun along the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Princes Gail and I headed out a few days ago from our home in Winston-Salem, up Hwy 421, and 80 short miles later we were on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, close to Boone and Blowing Rock, NC! We headed south, with an open-ended plan, intending to take a few days to travel to the south end of the Parkway at the gate of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

We stopped briefly at the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, walked a short trail, saw a few birds, but didn’t linger as we had been to this beautiful place before and had so many new things to explore.

Our next stop was at the Julian Price Memorial Park. We decided to hike around Price Lake, supposedly a 2.7 mile jaunt. Well, first of all, it seemed like 4 miles. The terrain was difficult at times. And we got the wet end of the “10-20% chance of rain” when we were at the opposite end of the lake! We finished soaking wet but feeling hearty! The place is a nice stop for campers, and the lake is open to canoes and kayaks; no motor craft. Pretty.

We stopped at many of the overlooks to take in the awesome sights. At the Rough Ridge overlook, we got onto the Tanawha Trail up to the ridge itself.

It was a steep and very rough/rocky trail, but the views were worth it!

We drove over the famous Linn Cove Viaduct. We drove past Grandfather Mountain and Linville Falls because we have been to those places before. We spent the rest of the afternoon stopping at overlooks and taking in sights like this.

Our first night was at the Little Switzerland Inn, right on the Parkway itself. The main advantage was that we didn’t have to drive way down to a small town in one of the valleys to find a place to stay. There aren’t too many hotels on the Parkway, and Princess Gail and I aren’t really the camping sort. We’ve done it before and enjoyed it, but we much prefer a bed and a shower!

We were up early the following morning to catch the morning light and the first birds at the nearby Orchard at Altapass. This little video says it all:

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Besides the spectacular mountain vistas, the Parkway offers many other treats for the eyes.

It is common to see wildlife and not-so-wildlife all along the Parkway.

Our next stop was a hike down to Crabtree Falls. This was a long and strenuous hike. Along the way, we helped an older lady in tennis shoes who had fallen and broken her ankle. But for us, the hike was well worth it! Again, a video:

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Later, we stopped at a few more overlooks,

…and then continued on our merry way past Mount Mitchell, Asheville, and on to Mount Pisgah. We stayed at the Pisgah Inn for dinner, a beautiful evening, and our second night. What a pleasant surprise to find this view from our room:

We woke up the following morning to this glorious view!

Another video? … Okay!

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Of course, we couldn’t let an early morning in the mountains go by without birding, so we took a stroll  on the grounds around the Pisgah Inn. We had a fittingly “blue” morning on the Blue Ridge: we spotted a Blue-headed Vireo, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a Black-throated Blue Warbler!

And then it was back on the road. We stopped at several overlooks, and then at one of our planned destinations, the Devil’s Courthouse. It is one of the higher elevations on the Blue Ridge.

We decided to hike to the summit, and… we made it!

Of course, the views were dramatic, and… another video!

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And after that, as all good things must pass, we knew our beautiful trip was sadly coming to an end. In the last 30 miles, we enjoyed our final vistas, like this one:

We talked about the many wonders we had seen, which included wildflowers and butterflies,

…Wild Turkeys, bears,

…(I actually did see a bear, from the safety of our car, dart across the road right in front of me,) and of course, our many beautiful birds, including this Pine Warbler:

The road finished it’s final windings

…and we said goodbye to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Goodbye “for now,” as we are certain to be back soon! :D

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