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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Live From Ocracoke!

This week, James and I are coming at you live from North Carolina’s beautiful Outer Banks! You could call it a vacation, but I’m not gonna be sitting around sipping gin n’ tonics on some beachside screen porch while a cool breeze rolls on through (but man, that sounds awesome). Why not? Because I’m a birder of course, which means I’m going to be spending every waking moment trying to bird the crap out of these fine islands!

The first step on any good Outer Banks trip is getting there, and getting to Ocracoke is taking the ferry. Now, I should point out that due to a slight conflict of schedules, James and I ended up arriving several days apart, which means by the time I boarded the ferry at Cedar Island, James already had one fine lifer under his belt (more on that later). Unfortunately, I arrived at the ferry not five minutes before it was supposed to leave, meaning the large groups of terns and gulls along the beach would remain un-scoped.

There's an Outer Bank out there somewhere! Er, and a boat.

Still, the birds were around, with many Royal Terns and Laughing Gulls circling the boat, while Brown Pelicans dive-bombed their fishy quarry from on high. Soon enough, I noticed a smaller tern flying up ahead, which then banked and flew right across the bow, giving me a great look at my lifer Sandwich Tern! Er, no picture (I suppose I was enjoying it too much), but just check out this one James took when he was over at Shackleford Banks. Yeah, it looked pretty much like that.

Instead, enjoy these nice Brown Pelicans on a channel marker!

But if there’s one thing the Cedar Island-Ocracoke Ferry is good for, it’s gotta be the Bird Island that lies a quarter hour outside Ocracoke’s ferry terminal. It’s chock full of stuff like pelicans, cormorants, gulls, terns, and a couple of fine Black Skimmers. It’s really difficult to scope out birds when the captain is slamming on the ferry-brakes and the strong sea-winds are traveling crosswise across the prow, but I managed a single bird that was different from the rest. And then some random dude got in the way. And it was gone. DAMMIT.

So I ran to the port-side of the ferry where the winds were too strong for most of the passengers, which thankfully makes it perfect for birders. I saw three little terns struggling against the very sea-winds that vacated this side of the boat. Nowhere near as nicely in breeding plumage as the one I’d just spotted on Bird Island, but luckily they allowed themselves to be photographed – my lifer Black Terns!

Black Terns, I swear! Zoom in to see 'em full size.

Ahh, how nice it is to have two lifers under my belt, and I’m not nearly done yet. Check back soon for further updates on how James and I are doing on our Outer Banks journey!


  1. Hey Rob,
    It's Vin (theGrine) from whatbird. I really enjoy reading your blog, it's really funny and interesting. Btw, 344 species in only two years is really great. Youve got some birds on your list that I am jealous of!

    I'm trying to reach 500 this year and am going to be in the Caribbean for two weeks so hoping to pick up some lifers there.

    What's on your nemesis/most wanted list? Good luck on your trip!

  2. @Vin - thanks man! Luckily for me, I got rid of one nemesis bird today (look for it a future blog post!) But otherwise, I'd say that Eastern Screech-Owl and Black Scoters are nemesis birds for me, and Painted Bunting and Roseate Spoonbill are my most wanted (I had planned a trip to go down and get 'em, but it fell through at the last moment, unfortunately).