Princess Gail meets Gabby Franco!

What a great day this turned out to be! :D

Following her success on History Channel’s Top Shot for the past two seasons, not to mention other things like competing in the Olympics, Gabby Franco has been traveling all over the country giving shooting lessons. I was planning to surprise Gail with a trip to Miami, for a lesson with Gabby at her home range, when Gabby announced she would be teaching three classes in Warrenton, NC, about a three hour drive from our house. Gail jumped on it and became part of the small group that would comprise this special event.

We arrived at the Front Line Defense Range on a cool, sunny, beautiful morning!

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Gabby set the tone for a very productive day.

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Gail said she was an outstanding teacher, eager to share what she calls the “essentials” of precision shooting.

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She paid attention to every detail.

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She demonstrated the Gabby way of doing things, which is world class!

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She worked on proper form.

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Though I really like Gail’s form already! ;-)

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She kept very good/safe order on the range.

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She provided all manner of personal attention to shooters at various levels.

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And she not only critiqued everyone’s shots, but taught the group how to critique their own shots.

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Gail is already a pretty good shooter, but there was visible improvement under Gabby’s expert tutelage.

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And it made Gabby visibly happy to see everyone improve.

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The ladies had an awesome day shooting. I had an awesome day listening and taking pictures.

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While shooting, Gabby is an intense perfectionist, and she demands “effort” and performance from her students. But she was also very gracious and warm. When Gail first met her, there was a genuine smile and a hug. At the end of the day, you knew you had made a friend. What a special young lady! I was already a fan, and now much more so! It is so great when people exceed your already high expectations!

Thank you, Gabby, for a truly wonderful and memorable day!

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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.

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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

 

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.

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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:

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Gail was like a kid, climbing and enjoying the dunes! :-)

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She gave her bum hip a pretty good workout!

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

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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