VSO Field Trip Report: 2-4 February 2018 - Outer Banks, NC

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.

Meredith Bell
VSO Field Trip Co-chair

Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Northern Bobwhite
Wild Turkey
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Eared Grebe
Northern Gannet
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Tricolored Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Clapper Rail
King Rail
Virginia Rail
American Coot
American Avocet
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
Wilson's Snipe
Bonaparte's Gull
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Short-eared Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Sedge 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
Orange-crowned Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
American Tree Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch