The Outer Banks

Friday, May 27, 2005: My first stop of the day was Alligator River NWR. I drove slowly down Buffalo City Road and walked part of the Sandy Ridge Trail (and boardwalk) at the end. This place seems to be the home of the Prothonotary! I've never seen so many in my life (total!) and I'm hearing a lot more than I'm seeing. Other warblers are also present (Parula, BT Green, Yellow-throated, Pine, Prairie, Worm-eating, Ovenbird, C. Yellowthroat). I also investigated Milltail Road, but it didn't add anything.

Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk
Kill Devil Hill Kill Devil Hill Wright Memorial
Wright Memorial The Runway Flyer Sculpture

Rather than head directly for Hatteras, I turned north at the outer banks so I could visit Kitty Hawk. I've been here once before, on the day of the first lunar landing (July 20, 1969). That time, I didn't walk up the hill, preferring to listen to space news on the radio. This time, I walked up the hill.

My next stop was the Bodie Island Lighthouse, where I also walked a little on the marsh trail. Then I headed down to Hatteras so I could meet some friends in time for dinner. We all stayed at the Hatteras Marlin motel. My trip bird total is 113 species.

Hatteras NC

Hatteras Pelagic Trip

Saturday, May 28, 2005: Today was the Brian Patteson-led pelagic from Hatteras on the Miss Hatteras. The seas were a bit rough, but not in a way that makes me seasick. Unlike Florida, the gulf stream is dramatically warmer than the surrounding waters, about 25 degrees. I got a life bird, Black-capped Petrel, but was disappointed to not see any of the more unusual birds that are sometimes found this time of year (Bermuda, Fea's, or Trinidade Petrel). We did see a number of Wilson's Storm-Petrels, a few Leach's and Band-rumps, a good number of Cory's Shearwaters, some Audubon's, and at least one each Manx and Sooty. A Pomarine Jaeger flew by as we were returning to Hatteras. My trip bird total is 126 species.

Hatteras NC

Pea Island NWR

Sunday, May 29, 2005: Bodie Island Lighthouse Today was our off day from pelagics. Four of us were joined by a local birder for our visit to the Pea Island NWR. We found some Black Terns and Black Ducks there, but the surprise was a Traill's Flycatcher (it didn't call, so we can't call it). Willow has been recorded along the coast at this time of year. Alder hasn't, so it is likely a Willow. On the other hand, I thought it somewhat greenish for Willow. Thus Traill's.

We also visited the Bodie Island Lighthouse. We would have liked to bird the seashore, but the masses of people there for the Memorial Day weekend discouraged us. Instead, we went inland to Alligator River NWR and Sandy Ridge Trail, where the Prothonotary Warblers did not disappoint. We spent a pleasant afternoon there. Dinner was at RV's, between Manteo and Nag's Head. It's on the water (but not ocean) and we were surprised to spot a Loggerhead Turtle right by the restaurant. My trip bird total is 136 species.

Manteo NC

Manteo Pelagic Trip

Monday, May 30, 2005: We were at the Country Girl (Pirate's Cove in Manteo) shortly after 5 this morning. It was a while before it actually left the dock. The water was very calm today. One area in the gulf stream was almost like glass. At first, we saw the same bird species we saw the other day from Hatteras. The only difference was a Bridled Tern that came by in midday. We did do better on cetaceans, finding Sperm Whale, Cuvier's Beaked Whale, Short-finned Pilot Whale, and Common and Bottlenose Dolphins.

Bottlenose Dolphins Sperm Whale
Bottlenose Dolphins Sperm Whale
Common Dolphin Audubon's Shearwaters Wilson's Storm-Petrels
Common Dolphin Audubon's Shearwaters Wilson's Storm-Petrels

There was only about an hour left in the gulf stream and we still hadn't seen anything special birdwise (although the whales had been a treat). We were about 60 miles out and some of us were getting a rundown on the cetaceans from Mike Tove (author of Guide to the Offshore Wildlife of the Northern Atlantic) when someone started shouting about a storm petrel. It was a European (British) Storm-Petrel!! Needless to say, it was a lifer. In fact, it was an ABA bird for everyone. Pretty soon, the atmosphere on the boat was like we had won the super bowl! The bird stayed in the vicinity for about an hour, until we had to return to port. That one bird made up for the missed petrels and then some. The sky below the clouds took on a pretty green cast as we headed home. Never seen anything quite like it. Unfortunately, my camera zoom had seized up, and I couldn't zoom to the wide end to get a decent shot.

European Storm-Petrel Black-capped Petrel
European Storm-Petrel Black-capped Petrel

My trip bird total is up to 139 species, including 2 lifers.

Manteo NC

Traveling through the Carolinas

Tuesday, May 31, 2005: I got a late start today, but it was still early enough to turn up some new birds at Alligator River NWR, mostly on Milltail Road. These included Northern Bobwhite, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Blue Grosbeak.

More new birds appeared as I headed south, including an Orchard Oriole that flashed across the road and a Wood Stork overhead somewhere in South Carolina. I made a late day stop at Santee NWR. It was drizzling and bird activity was low, but I got my first Northern Flicker of the trip. It started raining more seriously when I left Santee. At one point, traffic on I-95 came to a complete stop for about 20 minutes. I decided to spend the night near Savannah, hoping some of the rain would move on overnight. My trip bird total is now 146 species.

Savannah GA

Return to Miami

Wednesday, June 1, 2005: It rained intermittently from Savannah through Merritt Island. I stopped at Merritt Island NWR to look for the White-rumped Sandpipers (I found one) and for a break from traveling. A Bobcat crossed Black Point Drive as I was on my way out. I didn't go by the visitor's center, and only later found out I missed a Mississippi Kite. A quick drive on Pump House Road was not fruitful, so I headed on to Miami. Fortunately, there was only a little rain the rest of the way. I switched to the turnpike at Ft. Pierce. Traffic came to a halt around mile 95. I'm not sure why. It didn't really clear until the toll plaza at 88. After that, there were no major delays, just the usual rush hour delay at the 836/turnpike interchange. My final trip bird total is 153 species.

Miami FL