09 August 2011

Birding the Atlantic Coast 1: Dismal Swamp and North Carolina's Outer Banks

Last week I took a short trip with Craig Fosdick to do some pelagic birding off the coast of North Carolina. We arrived on Thursday night and were anxious to start the birding. After a quick stop to drop off some gear at the hotel, we headed straight to the Great Dismal Swamp, a famous birding location in southeastern Virginia. Although it was hot - 98F and very humid - some birds were still active. My first lifer of the trip was a singing Acadian Flycatcher, the first of several that day. Not much longer, we spotted a few of one of my most wanted species for the trip: Prothonotary Warbler. Other typically eastern birds were seen and heard, including a Wood Thrush, several Yellow-billed Cuckoos, several Carolina Wrens, and many Eastern Wood-Pewees. For the full list from eBird, click here. We went to bed early in preparation for more birding on Friday morning, along the 3 hour route to Hatteras, where our pelagic trips would start on Saturday morning.

The next morning, our first stop was at the Palmetto-Peartree Preserve. This private land is a preserve for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker, our target species of the stop, and is also excellent habitat for Brown-headed Nuthatches. We got a little lost from a poorly-drawn map, but still managed to find both of these species near the Preserve, although at the time we thought we were in the preserve. I saw my lifer Prairie Warbler the day before at the Great Dismal Swamp, but got good looks at a few more here. One of the highlights of the trip for me was seeing my lifer Southern Leopard Frog here, a species that is closely related to the one on which I'm writing my dissertation. Here is a link to all the species we saw at this location.

We stopped at a few more Outer Banks birding locations on the way down to Hatteras, and I picked up my lifer White Ibis and Tricolored Heron at the Bodie Island Lighthouse Pond and then my lifer Piping Plover at Pea Island NWR. It was another early bedtime in preparation for the boat trip the next morning, the main point of our trip.

(To be continued . . . )

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