Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mid-Atlantic Trip, Day 1, Part 2: Mattamuskeet NWR

Tundra Swans and assorted ducks, Wildlife Drive, Mattamuskeet NWR

The snow was coming down hard by the time I got to Lake Mattamuskeet. Choppy storm conditions, low visibility. Still I got a glimpse of my first tundra swans and a couple of rafts of sleepy ruddy ducks. The wildlife drive through the marsh area was my destination.

Here I saw close up some of the birds that I had been seeing along the roadway during the drive down. Killdeer, looking miserable and exposed huddled in snowy farmer's fields (though this one not so much).

Hundreds of snipe, still able to penetrate the ice with their long bills.

And kestrels, which were surprisingly common power-line birds

Lots of coots


and the occasional pie-billed grebe

plus great egrets, stunning in the snow.

The official star of the Mattamuskeet scene, though, is the tundra swan. There were thousands of them, many just dimly visible given the conditions.

This part of North Carolina is apparently the winter home to nearly half of the tundra swans in existence. (I would get much closer photos of individuals later this day).

Unexpected and charming--a flock of meadowlarks that I slowly chased down the road. Back home, a relatively uncommon chance encounter. Here, I had a chance to get to know them.

I was struck by the way they glide, close to the ground.

(I would get better individual shots later in my trip).

I left Mattamuskeet and headed towards Cape Hatteras. Pea Island was my next stop. Not a lot to see along the way, though I did have to stop for this passing flock of ibis. (Not a good bad-weather flier, that ibis...)

Day 1, Snow Goose Interlude

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