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!
VSO Field Trip Co-chair
Official List of Observed Species
American Black Duck
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Horned Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Anna’s Hummingbird ( feeder in Buxton)
American Tree Sparrow