Tuesday, October 23, 2012

South Carolina

Our first stay on the coast was Huntington Beach State Park just south of the very busy Myrtle Beach area of S. Carolina.  We highly recommend this park - a must visit for birders coming through this area.  The causeway into the campground and elevated boardwalks yielded a good diversity of wading birds including 300+ Wood Storks, Tri-colored Herons, Little Blue & Green Herons, Yellow-crowned Night-herons, Great Egrets (pictured) and Snowy Egrets.  Numerous Clapper Rails were mainly heard but a few were seen crossing the wet ditches at low tide.
We found songbird highlights including White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-throated, Black-throated Blue, and Hooded Warblers, and our #600 retirement trip bird - the Painted Bunting.  We joined a bird walk one morning and found this pair of 8 foot long Alligators warming themselves in the sun.  We found 97 species of birds at this park in four days.
 Next stop, southwest of Charleston was Oak Plantation RV Park where these 400+ year old Live Oaks dominated the tree species in this former plantation.  We are really feeling "the south" with the Palm Trees, Spanish Moss draping from the massive branches of the Oaks.  The birds here say "south" too with Wood Storks, Anhingas, Fish Crows, White Ibis, Black Vultures, Red-shouldered Hawks plus the ever present Carolina Wrens and N. Mockingbirds providing birding entertainment.
 Ty got permission to explore the back waters of this old plantation.  This large Black Rat Snake challenged his passage with his vibrating tail.
 Back to the beach and a few days stay at Hunting Island State Park.  This Atlantic Ocean park's exposed acres of numerous sand bars and ocean floor at low tide attracted thousands of shore birds: Marbled Gotwits, Red Knots, Long-billed Dowitchers, Black-bellied & Semipalmated Plovers, Willets and Am. Oystercatchers.  Hundreds of Brown Pelicans, Gulls, Terns and Black Skimmers rested here until the tide waters covered their resting areas.

We walked to some areas that had been badly damaged by a hurricane last year. (pictured)

 Vast acres of salt marsh covered the western part of the island where we picked up another new trip bird - the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

Last South Carolina stop was Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort where we hit a good migration movement of warblers and sparrows.  We had this Osprey checking out the deserted Purple Martin gourd houses.  We got up before dawn to watch the meteor showers in the glorious star-studded sky.  Amazing!  The heavens truly do declare the glory of God!

God Bless you all!!
Ty & Ida

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

North Carolina's Outer Banks

Once again, the Atlantic Coast and miles of beautiful white sand beaches beckons us to explore.  Willets, Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones scurry along the waves looking for "Sand Fleas"(a local name for this abundant crustacean).
 Ty caught this Sand Flea in the retreating tide.  They move by the hundreds and bury themselves quickly leaving only their feathery antennae out to strain the plankton as it rushes by.  Those fishing were also catching them to use as bait.
 As we sat quietly on the Outer Banks beach, Ghost Crabs were excavated burrows, piling sand, running sideways quickly in and out looking for food.  Any movement sent them retreating down their holes.  They come in all sizes, from 1/2 inch to this 6" dandy that kept his stalked eyes on the camera.
 We camped at the Pea Island National Seashore at Oregon Inlet for several days.  We birded Bodie Island Lighthouse area with vast wetlands that attracted large concentrations of Herons, Egrets, Ibis, Grebes, and waterfowl.  We were not the only ones that enjoyed the view from this elevated perch.

We took some trips inland to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.  We found a huge Black Bear feeding in an old stubble corn field snacking on fruit.  Too far away for a decent photo as it frequently laid down to rest.

Here are some smaller creatures that permitted a closer view.  This very large 3" Golden Orb Weaver at least was a stationary web sentinel.

On one of our bird walks in Surf City, NC we constantly had to step over mating Walking Sticks like this smaller male and female. Look close!

On the first day of Autumn, this is not the snow drifts of the northern Mid-west, but the white sand dunes of the Carolinas.

Thinking of "you all" (almost southerners now) as winter approaches.

Love & Prayers,
Ty & Ida