We added more raving fans (and future attendees) at the February 2-4, 2018 annual VSO field trip to the Outer Banks! With the combined eyes and ears of 85 participants, we tallied 133 species and had a fabulous time, despite the sometimes-adverse weather conditions. Our trip leaders Lee Adams, Bill Akers, Jerry Via and yours truly added to the enjoyment by ensuring that everyone got to see as many species as possible.
The popular trip to Lake Mattamuskeet on Friday included excellent looks at a cooperative Great-Horned Owl. Also impressive was a stream of 100s of Canada Geese flying overhead – their formation and accompanying “honks” made for an amazing experience. As usual, the impoundments held an abundance and variety of waterfowl, including a Eurasian Wigeon that a few were able to spot.
Saturday morning we divided into two groups to visit Oregon Inlet and Pea Island. A nesting Great-Horned Owl (on the platform of an abandoned Osprey nest) was a special treat at Oregon Inlet, and the Black-crowned Night Herons were in their usual spot behind the rear parking lot. At Pea Island the sunny skies made the views of the waterfowl spectacular - including Redhead, Cavasback, Lesser Scaup, 80+ American Avocets and 40+ White Pelicans huddled together on a single sandbar.
After lunch the winds had died down, and we had a wonderful time birding on Jennette’s Pier. Species spotted there included Dovekie, Razorbill, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Common and Red-throated Loon, Eared and Horned Grebe, and Northern Gannet.
We gathered at Bodie Island Lighthouse in the mid-afternoon, where we enjoyed diverse species of waterfowl in the impoundments, along with a Virginia Rail and an American Bittern (2 King Rails were also spotted by two people on Friday). One group walked the trail and witnessed a Merlin swoop down and catch a Yellow-rumped Warbler, then land on a nearby branch and feast on it. Nature in action!
On Sunday morning’s trip to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, we were delighted to find quite an array of raptors. Northern Harrier were everywhere! A juvenile, light-phased Roughlegged Hawk was the highlight and observed by many. At one point it was harassed by a Merlin and eventually flew off the mound of dirt it was sitting on.
Make plans to join us next year. We’ve already locked in the dates, February 1-3, 2019. We always have a memorable time, no matter what the weather brings! Complete list of 133 species for the weekend follows.
VSO Field Trip Co-chair
American Black Duck
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Horned Owl
American Tree Sparrow