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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Interlude: Falls Lake Strikes Back!

As much time as I’ve spent on the Falls Lake mudflats, I’ve only ever been to the ones that form at the mouth of Ellerbe Creek, mostly because it falls within Durham County, and I love my Durham County list (187 and counting, btw). But when a Red-necked Phalarope was discovered on the Granville County flats on the Neuse, and when fellow birder Kyle Kittelberger wanted to go find it, well, how could I refuse?

James and I were actually running a little bit early, so we decided to check out the nearby Hickory Hills Boat ramp and immediately found a nice Common Tern lounging on a buoy (188 and counting). And by this point we started running late, so it was off to the North Railroad Grade!

The sun plagued us all day! Too bad we didn't have a boat...

It’s a lot longer of a walk than the grade over Ellerbe Creek, but it’s nice and shaded for part of it, and it was a cool day anyway. No complaining! Once the lake was in sight, immediately the scope views abounded with Pectoral Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, and even six (!) white, immature Little Blue Herons, a decent count. But the best bird came when James spied a large white bird soaring high above the trestle. Upon photographing it, he found it to be a nice Wood Stork, a really nice bird this far inland.

Not the greatest Wood Stork in the world, but it was really high up!

Wait, did I say that was the best bird? Cuz we also found the Phalarope! Unfortunately, it was on the southeast side of the trestle, which means it stayed in poor light. But even still, it’s habit of running back and forth and in circles all over the flats meant it was really obvious even from a distance of several hundred feet. That would just have to be my life looks at a Red-necked Phalarope, and that was that.

Too bad...

Wait, who am I kidding, we’re birders dammit! James, Kyle, and I climbed down the rather loose rocks until we were on the flat, and made a plan to flank the bird until we were in decent light. When the mud got to deep though, we had to turn around and go home.

Almost there...

HELL NO we didn't! We took off our damn shoes and waded into the deep mud, knee high in places. I don’t regret it for a second, we all got great views of the bird (which didn’t seem to perturbed at our presence), and James got some top-notch pictures. Definitely a bird I can say I’ve had my life views of, and definitely an experience I’ll never forget!

Totally worth it, a fantastic bird!

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