Friday, February 1, 2013

Leadin' field trips down east

North Carolina's Albemarle Peninsula and Outer Banks make up a world-class birding destination in mid-winter, with waterfowl galore, and a healthy diversity of waders, shorebirds and sparrows.

I had the honor of leading field trips 'Down East' (as it's called) in back-to-back weekends.

Trip 1: Duke Conservation Society / Nicholas School Naturalists / Student Association of Wetland Scientists trip to Mattamuskeet
National Wildlife Refuge

A couple weeks ago Jeff Pippen and I took a group of 21 master's students from the Nicholas School down to Lake Mattamuskeetfor an unseasonably warm and sunny day of birding.

Lots of happy students
Bird highlights were a Eurasian Wigeon (thanks to Thierry Besancon, who we bumped into with a group from New Hope Audubon), a brief, but diagnostic glimpse of an Ashe-throated Flycatcher (the second one I have found in NC in as many months) and a very photogenic Anhinga.

I used this opportunity to swap SD cards and batteries for the cameras at my research site...

photo by Emma Hedman

Trip 2: Carolina Bird Club Winter Meeting at Nags Head, NC

This past weekend the Carolina Bird Club held its winter meeting at Nags Head, a launching point for a heap of the state's top birding hotspots.  I led 3 half-day trips around Bodie Island over Friday and Saturday.

The Bodie Lighthouse pond is the best place I know to get close enough to photograph (or in this case digiscope) ducks...

Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler

sleepy Gadwall pair
American Avocets, Green-winged Teal and Northern Pintail
Oregon Inlet always has something interesting going on bird-wise. This weekend the highlight for many of the birders on my trips were a pair of Purple Sandpipers at the end of the jetty.

Purple Sandpipers
On the way back west I dropped by the 'sparrow fields' by Lake Phelps.  The hotspot lived up to its name and the adjacent shrub line was loaded with oddball sparrows that are usually pretty hard to come by in North Carolina...
Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrows

Vesper Sparrow and Clay-colored Sparrow