Saturday, June 26, 2010

Beach Birds

Mom and one chick giving the alarm call

From our sunset and wine deck I noticed a nest platform far away in the salt marsh that begged investigation. From far away I couldn't tell if the nesting bird was an osprey or a bald eagle. Even with my zoom lens the distance was too great so some sleuthing was mandatory. Finding a road through the salt marsh took investigation and a little skullduggery. As it turns out, the road through the salt marsh is unmarked and private, belonging to a neighborhood and its HOA. There's a keypad iron gate through one must drive, which curiously sits next to a trailer park and even appears to go into the trailer pack. There's a method to this madness for it took me the longest time to find said road. Finally, I deduced that was the ONLY road that could be THE road so I watched and waited for opportunity to present itself.

The only shot containing both chicks

And it did. One morning the gate stood open. I took this as an invitation to explore. The road looped through the salt marsh, past huge homes I would never want. Fields of wildflowers were scattered amid the salt marsh. Dragonflies were my escort and birds darted around me. The nest was, obviously, that of an osprey and two chicks - juveniles, by the look of them. Mom and chicks exhibited alarm calls as I came close to the nest, and mom in particular seemed ready to dive for my head at any moment. Not wanting to disturb them further I stopped moving, took lots of shots and then took my leave.

The evening deck overlooked a stand of gnarled, mostly dead live oaks, the snags of which offered perfect birding opportunities. I confess to not having captured every grackle that stopped by as they were ubiquitous in nature. There were lots of mourning doves as well, but this one caught my eye. A gold patch was clearly visible on the side of its neck. This was the only gold-patched mourning dove that I saw.

I've no clue if this is another species of dove or just an anomaly, or if there's always a gold patch like this on mourning doves and the light was hitting it just right. I'll leave that to you serious birders. (I, myself, am a birding novice and just enjoy whatever flies by!)

From my lazy vantage point, glass of wine in one hand and camera on the table in front of me I was in heaven just watching the world go by. Occasionally, as the situation demanded, I would pick up the camera and shoot something of interest before setting the Canon back on the table and having another sip. Life Was Good At The Beach. This bird had a beautiful song. At first sight and before its song began, and from a distance I thought this was a red winged blackbird. Then it began singing and I snapped a couple of shots before it flew away. I don't know what this is and apologize for the sloppy shots.

Any ideas what this beauty could be?

Touring Fort Fisher, south of Wilmington, we found Ibis in a tree. I'd forgotten all about Ibis and had to look them up upon returning home. It's been a long time since I'd been to the ocean, or where Ibis can be found. They are so pretty. The shot has been photoshopped so that you can see them - they were practically in silhouette due to the angle of the sun. Kayla took this shot.

Back in the salt marsh - same tour - this great egret was glowing in the morning sun.

This fella also wasn't thrilled when I got out of the car and slowly crept closer. Eventually, he took his leave, flying into the salt marsh.

Well, I HAD to get some shots of the red winged blackbird. It's mandatory. Love these birds.

Along with him singing loudly. It bears repeating - Life Was Good At The Beach.

After looping through a second time I came to a quick halt upon seeing this fella in a roadside tree. Branches are in the way, naturally, but this little green heron was my favorite of the day! This was the first shot which turned out to be the best shot. Taken from my car window, if I'd stopped and gotten out this guy would'a been history! LOVE the colors of this heron. I've seen them often but never gotten this close.

Kure Beach Pier, two brown pelicans stood about waiting for treats from the fishermen. Cannonball jellyfish were bobbing in the waves beneath them. They were docile and sweet and complete beggars! I love their Sting-Sticky-Up hair, and their colors were glorious.

So sweet, their expressions and personality.

Interestingly, we all noticed this trip the lack of shore birds along the ocean's edge. The occasional sandpiper would make an appearance, even a gull or two, but frankly...the majority of birds seen were grackles and red winged blackbirds. It wasn't until the end of our week that we began seeing pelicans flying along the shoreline, but sightings were few and their numbers were few as well.

Has this been noticed anywhere else, or is that common to North Topsail Beach? Few shorebirds? We used to vacation just south of Wilmington in the Brunswick Islands and shells were abundant as were all manner of shorebirds but here, north of Wilmington, wildlife and shells were scarce. The area was almost sterile - that's the word I came up with while pondering it one day. I'm not certain why or, again, if this is just common for this beach. It was disappointing to me as a nature geek. Still, I adored vacationing here and highly recommend it! We may have just hit it wrong migrationally speaking, or something.

North Carolina is an amazing state from the gorgeous Smokey Mountains to it's amazing beaches. As much as I love traveling abroad our own country offers such diversity for travelers.


Diana (Di) said...

Beautiful time at the beach it seems and with wonderful subjects! including that delightful egret posing for you - great shot.

I love NC and if we ever moved from the PNW, that is where we would likely go. Hope your weekend is special.

Bird Girl said...

It's always so exciting for me to see Osprey with their young - we just don't have any nesting in our part of PA - but we get many coming through in the spring. Love the shot of your Green Heron - lucky duck ;-) They are tough to get close to!
I was at Fort Fisher and Kure Beach a few years back (took the ferry across) We also visited Orton Plantation. Have you been there? It is gorgeous in the spring. That Nicholas Sparks movie - A Walk to Remember...the wedding was filmed in the chapel there at Orton. I love NC, too - My sis lives there so we have been to a lot of places.
By the way - there is a Pelican Island somewhere near Wilmington and I bought my sister tickets for a luncheon cruise to go visit the island a couple of years ago - but the pelicans never show up! So although they still did the cruise - they didn't go to the island. She was bummed! Who knows about these birds ;-)

Anonymous said...

What beautiful birds! My Dad used to carve birds and I really must photograph them and show you the life-sized Great Blue Heron he did. It's amazing the places these birds choose to perch and nest. And, I saw a red-winged blackbird yesterday, too. :)

Julie Magers Soulen said...

This is great bird photography! I agree the green heron is simply outstanding! I also love the first egret. Keep up the good work!

Julie Magers Soulen Photography

Eve said...

Hi Debi! Great birds one and all...I am stumped on the mystery bird...I was hoping Barb would have an idea...BARB!!! Help us!!! hahaha! I'll look into it some more but it doesn't look like a RWBB. This is a good challenge!

Gaelyn said...

You ended up seeing a nice collection of birds. Love the search to find the Osprey.

Bo Mackison said...

What a great post, Deb. I'm not a birder at all. (The best I do are with the cranes at the International Crane Foundation which reminds me I need to go for a visit.) These are wonderful - my favorite, hands down, the green heron. I've never seen such colors as that. Beautiful!

Love your tale of the locked up road, also that you had a wine deck. Every vacation needs a wine deck.

Funny, while you were in NC watching the Atlantic, I was in the Pac West watching the Pacific! We had the country covered, from sea to sea!

bunnits said...

Hi. Nice to meet another Alabamian. I really like your bird photos. Here in Huntsville, I was very pleased to get to watch an osprey fishing at Brahan Springs Park one afternoon about a year or so ago (times flies, so it might be 2 years now!). I love to go down to the Gulf and was at Gulf Shores State Park last October. I hate what is happening in the Gulf now with the oil; so worried for the sea life, land critters, birds, and the people. Hoping for better times down there ASAP.

the wild raspberry said...

fantastic bird photos!
that green heron is incredible.


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