…the light of July and August is the day’s dazzle, hot light, with the season’s dust slowly accumulating and making the sky we see a giant silvered reflector.
Last Friday was probably the hottest day of this summer thus far. So, naturally, I decided to head to the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes NWR in search of bears, butterflies, and anything else I could find. Back in the old days, extreme heat would keep most people indoors, but things are different now, and as I drove into the refuge, I encountered a couple of cars already scoping things out. I also saw a turkey and a bear within my first 5 minutes on the refuge, so I figured it was going to be a good day.
Ten minutes later, I spotted a young bear in a tree where I have seen bears twice before, I stopped and stuck a camera out the window and he raised his head to check me out.
I spent about 15 minutes with this tolerant bear and then moved on so as not to attract a crowd. The bear was sleeping peacefully when I left.
I spent most of the morning slowly cruising the refuge roads. In addition to the kingsnake, I saw a Black Racer and what i am pretty sure was a Canebrake Rattlesnake. It got into the thick brush before I was close enough to be sure, but when something looks like a thick branch crawling across the road from a distance, it’s most likely a rattlesnake. Unfortunately, South Lake Road remains closed (it has been that way all year I think), so one of my favorite areas remains inaccessible by vehicle.
I drove back around to the bear tree over an hour after my first encounter and the sleepy bruin had moved down the branch a bit with its rear end braced against the trunk and was looking pretty relaxed. Once again, I didn’t stay long so as not to disturb.
As I often do on these day trips, I headed over to Mattamuskeet NWR mid-day to see if anything was going on there. To be honest, there wasn’t much happening. I saw a few songbirds, a couple of waders, and lots of invertebrates. I got out and walked two short trails and was rewarded with some beautiful spiders.
I drove back via the long series of gravel roads that pass through the part of Pocosin Lakes NWR that stretches from Hwy 94 to the south shore of Lake Phelps. You never know what you might encounter. Today’s finds included a couple of bears, some turkeys, and an abundance of dragonflies along the miles of canals that line the roads.
By mid-afternoon I was back on the Pungo Unit and spotted a mother bear with three cubs of the year ambling down a side road. As much as I love seeing the new cubs, I decided to let her and her youngsters have some quiet time without a human pursuing them, so I just took a couple of long distance photos and watched as they finally turned into the woods.
There were still cars and people on “Bear Road”, so I headed over to what I call “New Bear Road” for a little solitary saunter. I saw my first bear of the day on this road and it is usually good for a sighting or two. I walked down the road a ways and spotted a mid-sized Snapping Turtle crawling from the canal into the woods. They are so prehistoric-looking, and this one expressed its displeasure at my presence by raising up the hind part of its body in a defensive posture and looking at me in a less than welcoming manner as I waked past.
I walked down close to where another road joins and sat down along the edge of the woods, hoping something might travel this juncture. It was hot, very hot, and I sat there with sweat dripping off my forehead and listening to the chorus of insects buzzing all around me. Soon, a bear crossed far down the road and into the woods. Then, a deer came walking down the other road and paused to look at that strange blob sitting at the edge of the trees. It gave a few cautious stiff-legged steps, and stopped to make sure I hadn’t moved. It finally made its way into the woods, no doubt satisfied I was just some slow, ugly bear.
It had been a hot day, but a good one. I ended up driving more than I had intended, but my favorite times were those just sitting and watching the wildlife, from bears (my count for the day was 18) to dragonflies. As always, I left feeling grateful for our public lands and all that they provide to the wildlife, plants, and all of the human visitors that need that connection to the wild.
Love all the images. The macros are stunning. The peaceful sleeping bears as well!
Thanks, Petra. It was fun hanging out with the sleepy bear but I was conflicted because I didn’t want to disturb it. When I came back in the afternoon, it had left the tree.
I really enjoy your posts and photos! I first came across your blog when searching for some drawing reference of bears. I thought at first you were a professional photographer.
Thank you so much, Diane. I appreciate those kind words (but I guess that means that now you realize I can’t be😎)
Magical. I love that you share these experiences, we are all the wiser for it.
Thank you so much, Ann.
Thanks for a delightful visit to the refuge at a different time of year than the tundra swan migration and winter sightings. You remind us how much there is to see when we look! (or someone like you looks, who can actually identify these dragonflies and butterflies).
Thanks, Joy. Actually, while it is nice to know your wildlife and plant neighbors by name, all you really need is an appreciation and some curiosity (the names will come with time).
A nice photographic excursion to Pungo and Mattamuskeet with you! 18 bears is quite a lot! I’m wondering what a mother and cubs would do if they found you sitting along the road outside your car? Hopefully, if you didn’t seem threatening, she’d mosey on by. I’m also wondering if biting insects are a problem in the heat of summer? I’ve never been there at that time of year.
Thanks, Mary Kay. Regarding your questions, I have actually experienced that sort of thing many times at Pungo over the years. Each bear can be different in their reactions but the vast majority have almost always sensed my presence even if they couldn’t tell what I was. They often stand up to get a better view/smell (and the young ones often follow suit). Once they detect human, they almost always move away, some very quickly. I have had a few send their cubs up a tree and then she moves on. I try to not spook them or cause any additional stress once detected, but that can’t always be helped. Biting insects can be a problem on occasion with deer flies sometimes common (usually earlier in the summer) and mosquitoes (if they have been heavy rains or a hurricane passing through). They were no problem at all this past trip and usually are quite tolerable. But, you know it’s going to be a rough day if they are flying against your car window any time you stop:)
Thank you so much! I’ve always wondered about both of these issues.
Thank you for taking us with you on a journey of bears and dragonflies and so much more.
Thanks, glad you liked it, Marina.