Bodie Island

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.

~Lynn Thomson

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.

Bodie Island lighthouse a day after heavy rains (click photos to enlarge)

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.

A trio of White Ibis feeding at the edge of the grassy pool
The dark water made for good reflections

— The ibis continually probed the soft ground as they walked along, probably picking up worms.

— Some birds came to the pool to bathe.

A Killdeer hunts farther from the water in the short grass

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.

A Grater Yellowlegs catches a worm
That bill is a delicate but deadly instrument for handling their prey
Great Black-backed Gull dipping its beak in the water
A Boat-tailed Grackle high-stepping it through the pool

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.