Date: 1/30/17 8:41 am From: Harry LeGrand (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...> Subject: One-day visit to the NC coast
Yesterday, Erla Beegle, Robin Myers, and I made a long loop trip from Raleigh to Nags Head via Alligator River, Mattamuskeet, and Pungo refuges. Here is a summary of the better observations (and misses).
*Beasley Road pond*: At this borrow pond at the intersection of US 64 and Beasley Road, we picked out a minimum of 2 CACKLING GEESE amid about 1200 Canada Geese (a lot more Canadas than I had seen there before). While there, we saw 6 ducks fly over our heads; one was a tad smaller, so we concentrated on the 5 birds with dark heads, white underparts, and white secondary patches. These were 5 COMMON MERGANSERS -- several males and several females. They were heading southward, maybe to Lake Phelps, where the species winters routinely. I had never seen Common Mergansers from directly below before! But, the green heads on some and rufous on a few others were quite obvious.
*Creswell ponds*: There are now only two ponds on the south side of US 64 just east of Creswell; one or two were filled in for whatever reason. There were large numbers of Canada Geese on them, but as always the light is poor for observation as one looks to the south into the sun. The second pond, just inside the Washington County line near the Tyrrell County sign, did have 5 more mergansers. Four were RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS, but one was another COMMON MERGANSER. Because of the light, we could be sure if a male or female, but the clean-cut head-neck separation and rather flattened head with no crest was obvious. (Interestingly, late in the afternoon Derb Carter and Ricky Davis had 5 Cackling Geese and one Greater White-fronted Goose at this pond.) It is possible we overlooked them due to harsh light, and we were concentrating on the mergansers.
*Alligator River NWR*: Though we saw lots of waterfowl and shorebirds here -- River Road and Sawyer Lake Road -- we could not find the Golden Eagle reported 2 days earlier, though the bird was supposedly seen later, after we left. Of course, the three of us will deny that later sighting, as we covered each and every raptor along Saywer Lake Road, and no one else saw it at that time either.
*Jennette's Pier*: The report of over 100 Manx Shearwaters being seen in the morning from the pier prompted us to head to the pier, and we got there before 12:30 pm. Sadly the flight of them had faded by noon, and none were seen during the hour we were there. For consolation, we did see 30 or more RAZORBILLS on the water, plus a few dozen more flying by; the female COMMON EIDER; and 2-3 Humpback Whales.
*Mattamuskeet NWR*: We hurried down to Lake Landing, but could not find the Eurasian Wigeon due to hard light, though it was reported during the day. We also failed to find the Brewer's Blackbirds at Gum Swamp Road horse pen area. At the overlook north of the lodge, there were a lot of waterfowl, including a few dozen CANVASBACKS, but no rarities there, nor in the triangular impoundment.
*Pungo refuge*: We got to the refuge while the sun was still up, but no swans or geese were in the fields. So, we made the drive to the observation tower at Pungo Lake. In the fading light, Erla picked out 4 small geese that we finally concluded were the 4 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE seen a few days earlier by Matt Daw. We could not find a Trumpeter Swan on the lake (nor at Mattamuskeet), though with thousands of swans on the lake, a few distant Trumpeters could have been there.
So -- we missed a bunch of good birds reported the same day by others, but we did come up with a few Cackling and Greater White-fronted Geese, Common Mergansers at two new spots, lots of Razorbills, a Common Eider, and a few Humpback Whales -- not bad for a one-day trip.