I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence – that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.
After a rainy first day at Pungo, I headed to the coast, hoping for better weather the next day. On my way to Pea Island, I stopped at Bodie Island lighthouse early the next morning under gray skies and a steady breeze.
Over the years, I have had good luck birding here, especially on the large marshy ponds out past the lighthouse. But this day yielded almost no birds out there, at least none close enough to see. But the heavy rains the day before had left large pools of standing water in every low spot on the grounds, including a very large pool out by the parking lot. I pulled the car alongside just off the road enough to allow others to pass, and I sat for well over an hour, observing and photographing the birds feeding and bathing in the pool.
— The ibis continually probed the soft ground as they walked along, probably picking up worms.
— Some birds came to the pool to bathe.
My favorite subject at the pool was a group of Greater Yellowlegs feeding in the shallow water. They did not call so the best way to identify them as Greater Yellowlegs instead of their smaller cousin, the Lesser Yellowlegs, was their stockiness and the bill length relative to their head depth. In greaters, the rather stout bill is 1.5+ times the depth of the head. In lessers, it is just a little larger than the depth of the head, plus the bill is noticeably thinner its entire length. They were masters at catching earthworms that had no doubt come to the surface of the soil due to the flooded conditions.
The birds seemed totally unconcerned by my presence (and by a couple of other bird watchers out of their vehicles), but did fly off in a panic when two Bald Eagles came flying through, one chasing the other. They moved through so fast I missed my chance at a photo, but, after that, the only birds that came back were a few gulls and some grackles. But, a good start to my day on the coast. More about the other critters I saw in the next post.
Beautiful pictures. You really captured the feeling of the moments out there. I need to get back to the coast. I miss all those shorebirds.
It was nice to be out there if only for a short while. Plus, I love the winter beach (although I only spent a few minutes out on the beach because it was so windy and the ocean was a tad angry). But the bird life is amazing.
I just want to say again how much I enjoy and appreciate your amazing blogs and gorgeous photos. I look forward to receiving them. They are a spark of joy and delightful information and a much needed foil to the abundance of discouragement in the general news. Thank you so much for being an advocate and champion for nature, and bright light for humans.
Thank you so much, Elise, for your kind words. Being out in nature certainly helps me get through these crazy times.
Your opening statement is spot on and I to agree it yields the best results. Love your video clips and images, especially the trio of White Ibis. Thanks for caring and sharing.
Mike Love these photos! We were just at the Outer Banks last weekend. Also loved your caterpillar article in Walter magazine. Happy New Year! Betsy
Thanks, Betsy. Hope you and Walter are doing well. I’ll post the last in this series on Sunday about Pea Island and Alligator River. Communications folks at the museum recommended me for the Walter Magazine gig so I hope it will continue on a monthly basis for awhile. Happy New Year to you both as well.
Great photos of the yellowlegs! The white ibis are beautiful. We have the white-faced ibis here.
Thanks. yes, we see the White-faced Ibis when we travel west.
Thank you for sharing your time and talent. Beautiful! I live behind Hammocks Beach State Park on ICW. Come down to the SOBX this time of year you only see birds. The ferry is closed but I’m sure someone can get you over to the island. : ) (any excuse to run the boat realy) Not this week though my appendix burst!
Thanks, Frank. Hope to get down your way at some point this winter-spring. And wishing you a speedy recovery.