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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Everybody's Birding for the Weekend!

In any case, it’s James’s last weekend before he has to head back to college, so I figured we’d hit the always awesome Ellerbe Creek mudflats on Falls Lake, just to see what was there, and as per the usual, we weren’t disappointed. As soon as we headed down the stone rocks from the railroad trestle, I spied three male Wild Turkeys making their way along the forest’s edge, and James manage to snap a shot just before they bolted for the woods.

It's a trio of tom turkeys!

The mudflats are getting pretty extensive, especially the ones closest to the railroad tracks – already they extend almost all the way to the powerlines that cross the twin peninsulas. So James decided to take off his shoes and wade out until the shorebirds were in good light, which led to this nice pair of Lesser Yellowlegs that decided to stick around after all the other birds had bailed because those blasted Killdeer spooked everybody with their incessant shrieking.

A little nicer than their much more larger cousins, IMO

At this point, we ran into another group of birders, consisting of Erla Beegle and her partners in crime, and we began to delve into that most hallowed of birder conversations – “Did you see anything good?” And we both had the same answer – “The usual stuff.” Peeps, Yellowlegs, and Pecs, nothing special. All of a sudden, we look up to see a bird soaring like a jet plane across the flats, its long tail and neck making it one hell of a distinctive bird. Erla pegged it right away: “Anhinga!”

A female, I think; and it's got a fish in its mouth!

An awesome bird that’s particularly difficult to find inland, though there’s rumors it breeds in small numbers at the larger reservoirs around here. It’s a lifer for James, as we haven’t gotten to the southern coast for a couple of years now, so it’s especially cool we found one so close to home. After finding our bird of the day, we made our way down the peninsula, finding this confiding Pectoral Sandpiper on the way. Pecs are notorious bailers, almost as bad as the Killdeer, so it was nice that this guy decided to stick around.

Still waiting for that perfect shot of a Pec!

The end of the peninsula was full of peeps and the like, so we decided to check it out for Semipalmated Sandpipers, a bird that we could honestly use a better picture of. No such luck (it’s those damn Killdeers again), but we did manage to find a trio of Caspian Terns, and James managed to Jackal mode himself up to this little Least Sandpiper. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

But pretty much the perfect shot of a Least Sandpiper!

Just as we were leaving, we decided to hit up the ol’ standby, the Cheek Road causeway that crosses the heart of the northern end of the lake. At first we didn’t see anything, then I spied an Osprey landed on one of the mudflats, which flew up to its nearby nest. And then, a huge bird flew out of the woods on the right, and began to soar over towards us. That Bald Eagle would be the last bird we’d see all day, but what a way to end the day!

First the Turkey, then the Eagle - two prospective American symbols on the same trip!

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