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OBX Waterfowling #1

Two and a half days of non-stop birding in the outer banks on my inaugural solo winter OBX birding trip was the most productive birding I'd ever done (at that point in time).

First stop was Lake Mattamuskeet, where I spent the better part of a day with a total of 70 different species. Highlights included:

  • A Common Gallinule in the midst of hundreds (perhaps over a thousand) American Coots in the main impoundments;

  • Hundreds of Tundra Swans and a good assortment of duck species (although both diversity and numbers were down from a visit over New Years);

  • Three Cattle Egret in roadside ditches, and numerous American Kestrel on the roads around Mattamuskeet NWR;

  • A drake Eurasian Wigeon associating with hundreds of American Wigeon in the Lake Landing impoundments; and

  • Close looks at four Glossy Ibis and about 35 Great Black-Backed Gulls roosting together.

A broken ferry led to a detour to Alligator River NWR. Not much to speak of there, but on the way I stopped for a Merlin perched in a dead tree on US 264--one of my favorite highway segments to drive. I spent the next day meandering down the Outer Banks, from Bodie Island Lighthouse down to the ferry to Ocracoke. Overall duck numbers on Pea Island were down about 75% from the New Years trip, but there were still plenty of great birds around. Of the 64 species for the day, highlights were:

  • River otters near the Bodie Island Lighthouse;

  • Close looks at a female Common Goldeneye in Oregon Inlet;

  • A nesting Great Horned Owl on channel marker 13 in Oregon Inlet;

  • Two pairs of Wilson's Snipe--one on Cape Hatteras, and another on Ocracoke Island; and

  • An abundance of Eurasian Collared-Doves on Ocracoke.

Finally, on the third day I birded the afternoon ferry ride from Ocracoke to Swan Quarter. Perfect weather, sun at my back, and tons of birds made for a great combination. Highlights:

  • Two Brant mixed in with some Canada Geese;

  • At least 50 Red-throated Loon;

  • Hundreds and hundreds of Black Scoter (600-1000?) and a couple hundred Surf Scoter, mostly in the middle of the 27-mile expanse of water we call Pamlico Sound;

  • Five laughing gulls, which at this time of year are more a treat than an annoyance.

Overall, the trip yielded 107 species.

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