3-5 Feb 2017 - Outer Banks, NC

What a fabulous experience we had February 3-5, 2017, for the annual VSO Outer Banks field trip!  With the combined eyes and ears of 100 participants, we tallied a record-setting 155 species. Among these were several rarities: Manx Shearwater, Dovekie, Trumpeter Swan, Anna’s Hummingbird, Eurasian Wigeon, Anhinga, Lark Sparrow, Brewer’s Blackbird and Loggerhead Shrike. We also had an amazing number of Sparrow (11) and Wren (5) species.

Photos by Lee Adams

Photos by Bob Coles

Photos by Mary Lou Barritt

In addition to the rarities, highlights at Lake Mattamuskeet included up-close looks of an American Woodcock and Wilson’s Snipe. The impoundments always astonish us with an abundance of waterfowl, and this year was no different. Those who joined Lee Adams at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge at dusk to listen for Short-eared Owls scored a big success.

On Saturday many participants braved the strong winds and cold temperatures to visit nearby Jennette’s Pier twice – first thing in the morning and after lunch. We were rewarded with dozens of fly-by Razorbills, Red-breasted Mergansers, Northern Gannets and Black Scoters. In the water we spotted Horned Grebe and Red-throated Loon as well as a lone female Common Eider. At Pea Island we found several American White Pelicans and more than 100 American Avocets. We gathered at Bodie Island Lighthouse in the late afternoon, where we enjoyed diverse species of waterfowl in the impoundments. Many had good looks at a Sora, Clapper Rail, and Marsh Wren. More than 30 people stayed after dark to listen for owls, and they got Northern Saw-whet Owl and Great Horned Owl.

On Sunday morning’s trip to Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, we were delighted to find quite an array of raptors: Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel and Merlin. We added Lesser Yellowlegs and an early Yellow-throated Warbler to our species total for the weekend.

We dedicated the weekend to our beloved VSO member Jerry Thornhill, who died last year. Jerry was such a positive force about the Outer Banks trip – and ALL VSO field trips for that matter. His enthusiasm motivated many of his birding friends in Southwest VA to attend each year. We were gratified that his wife Jane continued the tradition by bringing 8 birders with her this year.

Special thanks to James Madison University professor Charles (Zig) Ziegenfus for bringing 6 students. Not only that, 4 of his graduates who attended last year came back this year and joined VSO because they had such a great experience. Zig has been bringing students to this trip for more than 40 years! We especially appreciate our team of exceptions trip leaders - Lee Adams, Bill Akers, and Jerry Via - who did an outstanding job of making sure participants in their groups saw as many species as possible.

Make plans to join us next year. We’ve already locked in the dates, February 2-4, 2018. We always have a memorable time, no matter what the weather brings!

Meredith Bell
VSO Field Trip Co-chair

Official List of Observed Species

 Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
Trumpeter Swan
Wood Duck
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Common Eider
Harlequin Duck
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Wild Turkey
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Manx Shearwater
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Clapper Rail
American Coot
American Avocet
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet (Western)
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
American Woodcock
Bonaparte's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Forster’s Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Short-eared Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird ( feeder in Buxton)
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Winter Wren
Sedge Wren
Marsh Wren
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Black-and-white Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Eastern Towhee
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Brewer’s Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow