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Sunday, January 30, 2011

A nice place for wintering humans and birds

The weather is finally starting to break our way with Sunday, January 30, seeing a high temperature of 69F.  That was just about the perfect temperature for an afternoon winter walk which became more of a stroll since there were so many people out enjoying the weather

Actually the last week of January has been a very nice week.  I think that I only missed one day of going for my afternoon hikes.

Our small subdivision of forty some homes is a little over three miles up the White Oak River from where it empties into Bogue Sound not very far from Bogue Inlet which leads to the Atlantic Ocean.  We have more marshes, water, and pine trees than anything.

Being in a nice area for people and wildlife is one of the benefits of being sandwiched between the White Oak River and the 158,000 acres of Croatan National  Forest while having the 56 miles of Cape Lookout National Seashore on guard in the Atlantic.

With all that wild land, it is not surprising that we have plenty of birds, including some of our bigger shore birds like pelicans and herons.

With an address like "White Heron Lane," it is no shock that we have a good dose of herons.  We have blue ones and green ones.  What used to be called "white herons" are now called great egrets, and they seem to enjoy hanging around here.  We also have kingfishers living in the neighborhood.  Once when I was out in my kayak, I got to see an osprey dive bomb a fish.  We see some hawks in the area and have even had an eagle visit the woods behind our dock.

There are plenty of ducks and cormorants to go along with the other birds.  I really have enjoyed the hooded mergansers who have been visiting in our waters this winter.  In addition to the bigger birds, there are number of small birds around.  Just today I saw a northern flicker, a red headed woodpecker, a downy woodpecker, a cardinal, and  some still unidentified small birds. We had an early morning hooded merganser visit, and the usual collection of herons were around most of the day.

If you have a look at this map of one of my hikes, you can get a pretty good idea of the opportunity that there is to see some of our neighborhood birds while never being very far from our home. While the aerial photo leaves out a new road which has no homes along it yet, the map is otherwise accurate.   Raymond's Gut, the water which runs right behind our home, connects us to the White Oak.  The gut offers some amazing opportunities to get close to some of the larger birds.

Twice this week I have been able to use the fish cleaning stand on our dock as a heron blind.  Once I got very close to a great blue heron.  This Sunday, January 30, just after we came home from church, I noticed a great egret walking in the shallows of the water towards our dock.

I had not even had time to change from my church clothes, but I crouched and made my way slowly to my ad hoc bird blind.  I poked just my head and the camera over the top and started snapping pictures.

With the weather warming up, the pelicans seem to have deserted us, but that just means that the herons have come back in force.  On top of that I saw a bunch of robins this past Friday.

With a great mix of woods, water, and marshes, it is hard to beat our spot for a nice place to enjoy our coastal winter birds.  We often get to watch herons or egrets and sometimes even pelicans feeding in the morning while we are sitting at our table eating breakfast.  It is a morning show that I prefer to any that they might cook up on television.

In spite of some recent but actually rare snowstorms, North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks is a neat place to winter for humans, especially any who enjoy watching some nice feathered neighbors.  We also have snow fairies to handle any snow shoveling.

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