Monday, October 7, 2013

Birding Fort Fisher

Natalia and I decided to bird Fort Fisher on our way back from the Carolina Bird Club meeting in Litchfield Beach, SC.  It was a report of a Yellow-headed Blackbird that drew us to a patch of senescent sunflowers by the ferry terminal.  While we couldn't turn up the target bird, the area proved to be quite birdy and hold a few surprises.
Lark Sparrow, Fort Fisher
Of course the rarer birds didn't do a good job posing for photos.  Lark Sparrow can be a tricky bird to find in NC, but this was not a first for me (link to when it was a first for me). 

Dickcissel is also an irregular NC bird and this was only my second in the state.
Dickcissel, Fort Fisher
The more common birds were much more cooperative.
Eastern Kingbird, Fort Fisher
Prairie Warbler, Fort Fisher
Just when we were about to give up on the vagrant blackbird, Greg Massey, Harry Sell and Jamie Adams arrived.  So we stuck around to show them the Lark Sparrow.

Greg tried to convince me there were Bobolinks in the area, but Jamie and I thought they all looked like Blue Grosbeaks.
Blue Grosbeak, Fort Fisher
Despite our disagreements over the finer points of little brown job identification, they invited us on a run down the Fort Fisher spit.  This is one of the best shorebirding spots in the whole state and one I had never previously explored, so I was thrilled to go along for the ride. 

We cruised out in Harry's truck and got Natalia her lifer looks at both Saltmarsh and Nelson's Sparrows and then got some close range practice picking apart the three North American peeps (Least, Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers).  The beach and marshes were littered with shorebirds.

A small flock of shorebirds in the marsh at Fort Fisher spit.  How many species can you see?
The best we found was a lone Red Knot, a species that may soon be added to the federal threatened species list.  I could check on its status if the Department of the Interior were not currently shut down.  
Red Knot, Fort Fisher

Just when we came up on a huge flock of a couple thousand shorebirds working the beach, Jamie realized that all our vehicles were parked in the ferry terminal lot, which was about to be shut behind a 15-foot razor wire fence.  So Harry bombed us back up the spit in record time so we could collect our vehicles before they were impounded. 

While we ended up getting back to Durham a lot later than we had planned, the excellent birding at Fort Fisher and the hilarious company of Harry, Jamie and Capt. Sell made it worthwhile.  Hope I cross paths with them again soon!


  1. Awesome shot of the Prairie Warbler. Jealous of the Saltmarsh and Nelson's Sparrows together. Nice post.

    1. Thanks, Nate! I've found Prairies in fall are suckers for pishing and then pose very nicely for photos.

  2. Woah man...somehow I haven't been here in a while, which explains why life has just been terrible. Anyway, I'm getting caught and good grief man, you've got some excellent birding going on over here.
    The drool...the's all back.

  3. Thanks, Laurence! I need to get some more posts up, so don't feel bad.