Carolina Young Birders Club


Nags Head Recap

Posted by Matt on February 11, 2015 at 7:00 PM

Hi Everyone!  It sure has been a long time since our last post, but I thought now was a great time to break the drought and welcome in the New Year with this new blog post recapping our chilly but also fun trip to Nags Head.

In addition I'd like to take the time to thank Martina's detailed post to the blog last December, picking up some of the slack on keeping our blog at least partially up-to-date!  Remember, any members are welcome to post relevant topics to the blog!  Martina's post in particular really resonated with me as we explored some of her notes during the 6 hour ride to Nags Head! If only all of us could be such diligent note takers...

But getting back on topic, the Nags Head meeting was a great experience.  I hope more people will be able to make it to our next field trip as Martina and I were the sole representatives of the Carolina Young Birders Club.  Obviously it can be difficult for young birders to make overnight meetings with transportation and finance issues as well as family obligations.  However thanks to some CBC grants we are now able to provide some funding or perhaps transportation to future field trips. Please contact me at or post to the forum for details.

We arrived from Charlotte late Thursday night and tried to get as much shut-eye as we could before the next early morning.  Everyone went their separate ways in the morning and various good birds were to be had despite the rainy, cold weather.  Several birders laid their glass upon the Iceland Gull at Wanchese Harbor on Friday, which was the last day it has been seen (much to my personal demise, who searched for this would-be lifer 4 separate times on Saturday!).  More found success at Jeanette's Pier ocean-watching, where a Little Gull and Dovekie were spotted.  The Harlequin Duck continued at another pier about 25 miles south in Rodanthe and a Green Heron was spotted well out of season on Roanoke Island, complementing the continuing adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the Nags Head Causeway.  The trip I was on managed to bag Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Orange-crowned Warbler, Fox Sparrow, Wilson's Snipe and Bald Eagle, plus numerous waterfowl, despite the downpour and treacherous conditions on the mud tracks that criss-cross Palmetto-Peartree Reserve on the Albemarle Sound in Tyrrell (prounounced TAIR-ull) County.  That evening everyone enjoyed Susan Campbell's authoritative presentation on wintering hummingbirds, which revealed the little known trivia fact that North Carolina actually has the second-most recorded hummingbird species in the U.S. after Arizona (of course).

The next morning, I led what was dubbed the "Young Birders Rarity Chase" but several participants of all ages joined us for this "wild" (and ultimately dissapointing) ride.  First stop- Wanchese Harbor, where we thought it would be easy to net the Iceland Gull that had been reliably seen there for the last few weeks.  Think again.  After about an hour of searching we decided our time would be better spent at Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head searching for the two rarities that had been spotted there yesterday.  However, Little Gull and Dovekie were not in the cards for us that morning as we battled 40 mph gusts, 8 foot swells, and a windchill of 13 degrees.  Hoping to add a few species to our anemic day list we made the decision to stop at the Bodie Island Lighthouse pond on our way to search for the Harlequin Duck in Rodanthe.  As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, a Bald Eagle flushed the thousands of Redhead, eliminating any chance of finding a rare waterfowl sprinkled into that flock, and the pond was almost completely iced over, leaving the birds in isolated pockets hundreds of yards distant from the observation platform.  Even the American Bittern could not be spotted at it's usual pool alongside the boardwalk; it's patch of water was frozen solid as well.  Could this day get any worse???  Heading south on North Carolina Highway 12, we tried to numb the pain with sightings of some hard-to-find shorebirds.  However, the Purple Sandpipers, of which I had personally observed 3 on Friday, would not produce on Saturday, although we were consoled by good views of the clown-like American Oystercatchers.  Continuing on through the sand dunes and with 20 minutes driving still to go to our destination, I decided that how the day was going we should at least check with Ron Clark, Vice President of the CBC and unofficial meeting commander to see if the Harlequin had been seen that morning by the Hatteras Island tour group.  Lo and behold, they had no luck when they stopped so we made an abrupt U-turn in the direction of Wanchese in a last-ditch attempt to find the Iceland Gull which would have been a lifer for almost everyone on my trip.  There, we explored both the west and east sides of the harbor but to no avail.  We had to return for the afternoon trips with a horrible track record, missing every single bird we set out to find!  Well, at least you can't say we didn't try- and conditions were certainly not on our side!  The afternoon was slightly better, as the wind calmed down and temperatures nudged the freezing mark.  A pair of Painted Buntings were discovered in Manteo, and the Green Heron made a reappearance, as did the Harlequin Duck at around 3:30 PM and even the birds we originally missed at Jeanette's Pier!  However, as of yet the Iceland Gull has not been refound making Friday the last day birders reported the bird.  Despite the miserable morning, for an evening consolation prize I got great views of a Sora at the Nags Head Causeway and a delicious buffet to boot!  Saturday evening was highlighted by the official tally with 189 species reported and an interesting program about sea turtle rehabilitation by the N.E.S.T. organization.

Despite the ups and downs throughout the weekend, overall everyone participating had a great time.  The next Carolina Bird Club meeting is May 1st and 2nd in Clemson, SC.  I'm hoping the CYBC can have a presence or even perhaps another field trip at this event, and hopefully a few more young birders will be able to attend!  If you have any other field trip suggestions, please e-mail me.

Cheers to a new year of great birding!

Matt Janson


Categories: Trip Reports

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