Great Blue Heron and Female Northern Shoveler, Chincoteague NWR, VA
Day 2 was different. No snow, clear, bright (if a little windy still). I started out with a trip over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It is nearly a pelagic experience you are so far out over the water--I swear I saw a shearwater as I was driving by.
My first of two stops was Chincoteague. Yes, I did see and take photos of the "wild" ponies like everyone else. Here, let's just get them out of the way.
Today I had a couple of modest goals. First, an actual photo of a Carolina chickadee. Second, I hadn't seen a bald eagle this trip yet. Wouldn't you know, as soon as I entered the Wildlife Loop trail and was raising my camera to take a picture of this Carolina chickadee, a bald eagle soared by? That was quick! I would see bald eagles again in the woods. Can you find one?
Today it was bright enough to take photos of little birds. I finally got some decent shots of the ubiquitous yellow-rumps (good warm-up for our warbler season up here in a couple months)
And so many trail-side sparrows: song, swamp, tree and even chipping sparrows (see ya in a month, chippy)!
My favorite moment of the morning, though, was an encounter with brown-headed nuthatches. They were teeny tiny, flitting around more like chickadees or kinglets than white-breasted nuthatches, making a racket, sounding like little squeeze toys.
The waterfowl scene was also hopping, though there was more ice on the water here than in NC, and so more crowding. Pintails, black ducks, mallards and shovelers in great abundance. They would occasionally be driven up into great duck clouds. The beauty of the male pintail goes without saying, I guess. But the northern shoveler holds its own in this department. Lots of herons and egrets (and lots of people taking photos of herons and egrets). Tundra swans and snow geese were there as well, the snow geese occasionally flying over in wonderful formations. I tried again and again to capture this, but this was the best I could do. I wanted more. Next stop, I would get it.
Last stop, Nag's Head Woods, an opportunity to explore what's left of the coastal North Carolina forest. Unfortunately, it was mostly under water this day.
I walked slowly through the two short trails still open (and still rather wet). But an unexpected view of the bay created a feeling of rugged isolation (even though the preserve is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood). I saw but didn't manage decent photos of Carolina chickadees in Carolina but I did get the next best thing: A Carolina wren in Carolina, sitting like a hobbit in front of its barrow. I drove back to Chesapeake and slept for 12 hours (did I mention I had an awful cold the whole weekend?)
Pea Island, like our own Plum Island, is a waterfowl wonderland. Also like Plum Island it can be very windy in the winter. And as you already know, it was snowing. But, Plum Island veteran that I am, I came prepared. Weather armor. I stopped at the north end of the north pool (the south pool is closed off during the winter). The snow geese were actively feeding. Immediately, something of interest. Holy cow! White pelicans! And, for comparison's sake, a (more common in the east) brown pelican. This one I inadvertently chased into the water, but it got something to eat (all the while harassed by gulls). On the salt panne side north of the pool, godwits (can't you tell?) and this unmistakable and completely unexpected....American Avocet! The tundra swans at Pea Island were much more interested in posing than the ones at Lake Mattamuskeet. And then there were the common birds in enormous proportions. Seven pie-billed grebes at once! Or this long string of twelve female buffleheads! Pea Island, the best yet.