Northeast North Carolina Coast in Late February

Better late than…..

On February 24 I hooked Puff up and took off for the coast. I had not been to the coast since Thanksgiving when Sheree’, Scott Davis and I did our annual birding adventure.  This was the first winter trip in years, albeit late in the season.  Although numbers were down I did quite well, locating a wide diversity of birds.  

First stop was Pettigrew State Park, a good place to camp on the cheap, although their hot shower bathrooms were out of order on this visit. Pettigrew and the surrounding open area farms can be quite beautiful, and the trees, omg, the trees alone are worth the trip.  Past visits to Pettigrew have always been late afternoon events so it was very pleasant to relax, enjoying sunset and sunrise, before heading off to Alligator River and OBX the following day.

Somerset Plantation

On the way to Pettigrew, I stopped off at Vernon James Research Station and Beasley Pond.  Vernon James had the usual suspects, 13 Bald Eagles and a Cooper’s Hawk were highlights, 26 species total (checklist).  Beasley Pond was a busy place, but many of the birds were back and off to the left out of good view. I did find two Greater White-fronted Gooses, well over 2,000 birds were present(checklist). 

After arriving at Pettigrew State Park and setting up camp,  I took a drive down to Pocosin, to the F2 road, birded there and the Cypress Point access at Lake Phelps.  Fairly quiet afternoon, and since the roads down to Pungo were closed I went back to watch the sunset at Phelps. 

Beppu at Pettigrew State Park campsite

Sunset and Sunrise at Pettigrew State Park

J. Morgan Futch Gameland

February 25 – Futch, Alligator and OBX

On the way to Alligator and OBX the next morning I pulled into Futch Gamelands, an up and coming hotspot.  My total for this area, on this visit and on the way home, was 48 species, including a Peregrine Falcon. The observation tower (there are two) in the north section, gave me awesome views of the waterfowl yet to migrate back home. 

The first of two visits to Alligator River NWR put me on notice that the winter was almost over. The USFWS had already drawn down the impoundments, so there was almost NO waterfowl to be found.  Also, there was no sign of the Rough-legged, Swainson’s or leucistic Red-tailed. Since I was pulling Puff behind I decided to move on to Roanoke RV park, get set up, and begin birding the OBX hotspots. 

Carolina Chickadee at Futch Gamelands

Bodie Island Lighthouse - The Pond

February 26/27

For the next two days, I enjoyed, under a variety of weather conditions, birding Bodie Island, Pea Island, Oregon Inlet and Hatteras. The best show was on the ocean.  There were dozens of Red-throated Loons, thousands of DC Cormorants and gulls, and my first North American sighting of Razorbills.

Snow Goose at Pea Island NWR

Male Northern Harrier at Alligator River NWR

It was nice to be at Pea Island when it was not so crowded with people.  Hanging out on the beach was very enjoyable, watching thousands of cormorants and almost 100 Horned Grebes, with Northern Gannets dive-bombing between them.  Upon returning to ARNWR the following day I was able to locate one of the three hawks of interest, the leucistic Red-tailed, as well as some coyotes. 

Totals for the 4-day trip – 30 checklists, 96 species.  

Ready for spring birding!

Coyotes at ARNWR

Cormorants, Grebes, Gannets and Pelicans

American Black Duck showing key ID marks

Canada Goose

American Wigeon

Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk

Cold front passes over Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

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