Wake Audubon Blog

View an Amazing Array of Colorful Ducks at a Great Attraction not far from Raleigh

i Dec 9th No Comments by

By Fred J. Eckert

One of the best places in the United States and perhaps in the entire world to see – and photograph — a bountiful variety of incredibly colorful ducks is an easy day trip from anywhere in or near Wake County – only about an hour-and-a-half drive.

It constantly amazes me that so few of even the most avid birders in our area are aware of this fantastic attraction that lies so near to us.

Right now through mid-May are the months to savor these ducks — more than 100 species of them from all parts of the world — at their peak color.

Sylvan Heights Bird Park, located in the tiny northeast North Carolina rural town of Scotland Neck, a bit east of Rocky Mount between Tarboro and Roanoke Rapids on NC Route 258, is the largest bird park in North America and largest waterfowl park in the world.

This fascinating and fun park is home to more than 2,500 birds. Included among them are 18 endangered species; more than 30 species of very rare birds; all 8 swan species; 30 of the just over 30 species of geese and more than 100 species of ducks.

And it truly is a park as opposed to some tourist attraction that merely bills itself as a park. The pleasant, neat, well-maintained 18-acre park-like environment is well laid out in a double-8 clearly marked pathway and divided into sectors dedicated to each of the seven continents (except, because of climate, Antarctica)  plus sections focused on exotic birds, finches, pheasant, flamingos and swans, geese and cranes.

King Eider at Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Photo by Fred Eckert

King Eider at Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Photo by Fred Eckert

There is no other place in the country quite like SylvanHeights Bird Park where visitors can observe up-close, and sometimes even interact with, such an amazing array of exotic and/or endangered birds, ducks, geese and swan from all parts of the world.

Ruddy Duck at Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Photo by Fred Eckert

Ruddy Duck at Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Photo by Fred Eckert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This great avian collection is the dream and culmination of a lifetime of work devoted to saving birds and waterfowl of Mike Lubbock who founded and directs this not-for-profit operation with his wife Ali and their son Brent and a small handful of staff and volunteers.

Widely recognized as the world’s leading expert on waterfowl, this farm boy from the Somerset area of England became fascinated with birds as a youth and began his career in ornithology at Britain’s prestigious Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust where he served first as a volunteer then as Curator and ultimately as Director of Aviculture. It’s also where he met his future wife, Ali, who was serving as a volunteer.

His rare talent for bird breeding — his successes where others had failed – became widely known and resulted in his being personally consulted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who first turned to Mike for advice about her concern that the red-breasted geese among her bird collection at Buckingham Palace were reluctant to breed. The Queen followed his advice and one day she called Mike all excited about the change she credited him with bringing about. He became her go-to expert from then after.

Mike’s passion to preserve threatened waterfowl and other birds and promote conservation efforts has taken him all over the world and he has worked in this field he loves so much in both the UK and the USA. The International Wild Waterfowl Association, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame – they’ve also inducted Ali Lubbock — and bestowed upon him its most prestigious aviculture award, has said: “Mike Lubbock’s avicultural accomplishments on both sides of the Atlantic are legendary. He has brought many new species and new bloodlines in from the wild. He has accomplished many first breedings and he has been a source of bird and breeding advice to many.”

How Mike Lubbock path in life led him to realizing his and Ali’s dream of creating their own great avian collection park here in North Carolina is a long story and the subject of a recently released book, The Waterfowl Man of Sylvan Heights. What we Wake Audubon Society members need to know is that such a great birding experience that so few of us have been aware of for too long is so near-by and so well worth a visit.

The 18-acre park which is open to the public is an outgrowth of its adjacent 10-acre Breeding Center devoted to raising rare and endangered species of waterfowl. “The Park is designed to educate people about waterfowl and the importance of preserving them,” says Mike Lubbock.  “Our goal is to tell visitors the story of every species–where it comes from, what habitat it prefers and why the species is important to our world. Visitors are also immersed into a wetland setting, so the feel and scope of a primary waterfowl habitat can be fully experienced.” Park generated revenue also helps fund the Breeding Center.

Among the many interesting facts about Sylvan Heights: It is credited with breeding 17 species of waterfowl for the first time in the world and 15 species for the first time in the North America and nearly one-third of the world’s once perilously endangered White-winged Wood Duck population reside here.

Naturally a place where visitors can come see waterfowl and other birds that include endangered and very rare species has to house them in a protective captive environment. For anyone who suggests that it is not a good thing to have birds in such a protected area, Mike Lubbock has a question: “Would you rather view an endangered species alive in a nice park-like environment such as Sylvan Heights Bird Park or dead in some museum?”

It is obvious that great thought and care have gone in to making Sylvan Heights the best possible experience both for those who visit it and for the birds and waterfowl who reside there. Besides being so pleasant and well-maintained the areas are extra good sized with exceptionally high nets. The water is very clear. The design is such as to insure maximum safety for the birds and waterfowl.

And here’s something truly smart that anyone who likes to photograph birds will appreciate: In places where otherwise you would normally expect to have to shoot through a wire fence, ruining any possibility of getting a very good photo, Sylvan Heights enables photographers to open an area in the fence that is wide enough to poke through a long lens and easily move it up or down and from side to side. You’ll need a key, which you can use while your driver’s license is held to insure its return – and there is a modest fee. I thought this was a fantastic plus but asked if it didn’t pose any risk of what was being photographed somehow escaping through the resulting temporary small hole in the fence. No chance – the design prevents such a possibility.

Yet another interesting feature of Sylvan Heights is that within the park you can also observe and photograph birds and waterfowl in the wild. At Beaver Pond Blind, which overlooks a wetland, as its name suggests you can observe and photograph looking out of one of its many blinds. The wheelchair accessible Treehouse is a large roofed viewing platform located over another, larger wetland.

The feature probably most popular with kids in the interactive Landing Zone, a good sized building where parakeets will fly to you if you have a seed stick and you can feed flamingoes out of your hand. Seed sticks for the parakeets and food for feeding to flamingoes cost $1 and are available in the Landing Zone or the Visitor Center gift shop. Besides a variety of parakeets and the American Flamingos inside The Landing Zone visitors encounter parrots, doves, pheasants, pigeons and the white-rumped shama, a small passerine bird.

Tours of Sylvan Heights Bird Park begin at the Visitors Center, where you can watch an introductory video and check out some displays, sometimes baby birds or waterfowl. Its Gift Shop is small but nice. Sylvan Park does not operate any food service – but this very-family-friendly attraction welcomes anyone to bring a picnic lunch and provides a playground for the kids and a couple of picnic areas. It’s only a few minutes’ drive to any one of several restaurants and fast-food outlets in town.

While anyone living in Wake County or close by can do Sylvan Heights as a day-trip, my wife and I opted to devote more time and were glad we did. Anyone who enjoys photographing beautiful birds, as I certainly do, really should devote more than just one day to this great experience and take advantage of being able to shoot different sections in different lighting conditions.

What we would not recommend doing is following the accommodations recommendations of some of the reservations booking sites. Most we checked recommended staying in Roanoke Rapids, Rocky Mount or Tarboro – and each place is a 30 to 40 minute commute to and from Sylvan Heights on small country roads that are pitch black at night and best avoided at night especially, say, during deer season.

We stayed in Scotland Neck at the Scotland Neck Inn which compares favorably to any of the recommend motels that require a long commute. It was comfortable, very clean, good service and it’s reasonably priced, offering a discount for Sylvan Heights visitors. It was hot when we visited the park and it was nice to be able to return to the motel and freshen up during our lunch breaks. There is also a bed-and-breakfast in town.

Not surprisingly there’s not much to do in a town so tiny that it does not have a single traffic light and which, except for a few familiar fast-food spots, looks pretty much as it did in the 1950’s.

What did surprise us, as it has others, is that tiny Scotland Neck has a restaurant serving such outstanding Italian food – LaCasetta. My wife and I know Italian food pretty well, having lived in Rome and having traveled throughout so much of Italy – and LaCasetta, operated by an Italian who hails from Sicily, is great!

For anyone who enjoys birds or anyone who just wants to try something different a visit to Sylvan Heights Bird Park is a wonderful experience. Pretty much everyone who visits it gives it rave reviews.

When’s the best time of year to visit? Anytime. Ducks are at their best colors right now, tropical birds during the summer months.

For more information about Sylvan Heights – including information about its hours, fees, events and its various educational programs – visit its website by clicking here.

Lake Betz is the Betz

i Jun 30th 2 Comments by

By Bob Oberfelder

Lake Betz is a unique habitat with a huge concentration of Red-headed Woodpeckers. It is located behind the Cisco Systems and Network Appliance facilities between Louis Stephens Drive and Kit Creek Road (in the Research Triangle Park area). The safest place to park is in a gravel covered recreation parking lot off of Louis Stephens Drive. There are Port-a-potties there as well as some volleyball nets. If you walk across Louis Stephens Drive from the recreation area you will see an asphalt trail that leads over to the lake and swamp area.

There is a small lake here and adjacent to the lake is a swampy area filled with dead snags that have attracted large numbers of Red-headed Woodpeckers. It is possible to encounter as many as 7 woodpecker species in a single visit in this area in the winter. I have observed nesting Osprey, Northern Flickers, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Common Grackles and Tree swallows. Large numbers of Green Herons appear to spend their summers here. During a recent visit, late May 2015, I saw a Great-crested Flycatcher and Belted Kingfishers are a common year-round sight. For people interested in photography, it is possible to get quite close to the birds since they frequent the foliage between the lake and the swampy area and many of the snags frequented by the woodpeckers are close to the walking trail. I am including a few recent photos taken at Lake Betz to wet your appetite for this unique place.

Great-Crested Flycatcher

Great-Crested Flycatcher

Northern Flicker (yellow-shafted)

Northern Flicker (yellow-shafted)

Osprey

Osprey

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red-Headed Woodpecker

Green Heron

Green Heron

Protect Henslow’s Sparrows’ Breeding Grounds

i Feb 17th No Comments by

Authored by Gerry Luginbuhl

The Wildlife Diversity staff with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission have submitted a proposal to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to manage 1,645 acres of the 2,800 acre former Voice of America (VOA) site. This former transmission facility is the largest expanse of contiguous grassland in North Carolina. The transfer of these acres to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission will, for the first time, allow the public access to the only robust population of breeding Henslow’s Sparrows in the eastern Unite States. The VOA closed in 2006 and is now disposing of the land. Beaufort County has been given first option to develop a parks and recreation plan for the entire site, and the Wildlife Commission’s proposal will complement active recreation facilities which may occur on the remaining acreage.

To read more about the proposed development of the former Voice of America site and to learn what you can do the protect this valuable resource, please visit our Advocacy page.

HenslowsSparrow2LG copy

In Pursuit of a Tiny Bird in a Big Forest

i Dec 1st No Comments by

Authored by Zhuoyun “Zoe” Pu, with minor contributions by John Gerwin.

I have been studying the Black-throated Green Warbler in the Uwharries region of central NC for the past few years. This includes capturing some individual birds and applying bands and radio transmitters. I work with colleagues from the Greater Uwharries Conservation Partnership, especially Joe Poston of Catawba College, and Crystal Cockman of the Land Trust for Central North Carolina. Museum research associate Sharna Tolfree has been instrumental. Crystal and I co-host a “Naturalist Day” on the second Saturday in May. And recently I and my Museum colleague Jerry Reynolds led a day trip to the region. Crystal has several interns each spring/summer and as part of our collaboration, I get to take one into the field. This year’s intern was a young woman from China who is doing an advanced degree at Duke University in Environmental Engineering. The internship is designed to give them experience in land conservation work, including biotic surveys and in my case, some research. Often this is outside the “comfort zone” of the intern. We asked Zoe to write a little something about her experience with the work for the Black-throated Green Warbler, in May. Although not part of this story, it was great that Zoe was able to come back in June and assist for two of the 5 days when I had several Young Naturalist/Junior Curators. One of the Junior Curators is half Chinese and was thrilled to have some time chatting with Zoe. You never know what you will find in the forest.


Black-throated Green Warbler photo by Joe Poston, Catawba College

Zoe’s words –

I’ve spent the spring and early summer in pursuit of a tiny, black and yellow bird with a buzzy song – the black-throated green warbler of the Uwharrie National Forest. It’s made for an experience I’ll never forget.

As a Duke University graduate student, I’ve been an intern during May and June with the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, assisting John Gerwin, an ornithologist from the N.C. Museum of Nature Sciences, with his bird and vegetation surveys in the Uwharrie National Forest. It’s an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Our main object is the Black-throated Green Warbler. We try to collect physiological and genetic data by catching, tagging, and releasing the birds. While we work, we look for birds captured in previous years and record information about their habitat.

The Black-throated Green Warbler is a small songbird of the New World warbler group. Its black bib and bright yellow face are unique among birds of the eastern U.S. This bird can be recognized easily, not only by sight, but also by its sound, a song that sounds like “zee-zee-zee-zoo-zee” or “zoo-zee-zoo-zoo-zee”.

The warbler breeds in coniferous and mixed forest but occupies a wide range throughout its life. In August, it flies south to its Central American wintering grounds. The warbler nests in parts of North Carolina in the higher southern Appalachians, a few coastal plain sites, and in the Uwharries region. Our survey focuses on the black-throated green warblers found in the Uwharrie National Forest, which seems to be an isolated habitat for them.

The Uwharrie National Forest is primarily in Montgomery County, but extends into Randolph and Davidson counties in south central North Carolina. Most of the time, we are on Daniel Mountain or other mountains near it. According to former reports, the Black-throated Green Warbler is usually heard on the N/NE slopes of the mountains.

We begin our hike through the mountain trails at 7:30 a.m. daily, then head off the trail on a zigzag pattern through the terrain. When we hear the songs of a black-throated green warbler, we stop at one spot and play a recording of the bird’s song. In general, the male bird will be attracted by this imaginary male’s song and will come close to find out who might be challenging him for his territory. If we find a male bird is interested in our fake song, we will set a vertical net in the clearing and put a decoy model of a Black-throated Green Warbler and audio player on the branch nearby. The male will try to flush the decoy bird and get tangled in the net. The process requires a lot of waiting, watching and luck.
If we catch a bird, there’s a lot to do before he’s released. First, we put a small, numbered metal ring on the warbler’s feet to identify it. Then, using special measuring tools, we tally the bird’s wing length, weight and fat condition. During this process, we noticed that this year’s birds weigh about 8.5 grams, lighter than the typical weight of 9 grams.

Using a special needle, we draw blood from the tiny bird’s wing vein, an operation that doesn’t hurt the bird. The blood sample allows us to collect genetic data on the animal.

For our next step, we will do some vegetation surveys to know more about the warblers’ Uwharrie habitat. The Black-throated Green Warbler brings more vitality to the Uwharries, and I hope our efforts will help people understand more about the birds, so that we can live together with them long into the future.

Zhuoyun “Zoe” Pu is a Duke University graduate student who interned with the Land Trust for Central North Carolina.
Re-posted with permission from Zhuoyun Pu and the Urban Institute at UNC-Charlotte. First posted at http://ui.uncc.edu/story/black-throated-green-warblers-uwharrie-national-forest


Author Zhuoyun “Zoe” Pu with a Black-throated Green Warbler. Photo: John Gerwin

An Amazing Bird Park So Close to Raleigh — Yet So Few Know About It. You should visit it.

i Sep 7th 3 Comments by

By Fred J. Eckert

If you live in or near Raleigh you are an easy drive away from the largest bird park in North America and largest waterfowl park in the world.
Did you realize that? Few do.
ECK_8030
The scarlet ibis inhabits tropical South America and islands of the Caribbean.

I didn’t – not until just recently when my wife Karen and I discovered and visited Sylvan Heights Bird Park, located in the tiny northeast North Carolina rural town of Scotland Neck (pop. 2,000), a bit east of Rocky Mount between Tarboro and Roanoke Rapids on NC Route 258. It was only about an hour and a half or so drive from our home in North Raleigh, meaning it’s an easy day trip from anywhere in Wake County.
This fascinating and fun park is home to more than 2,500 birds. Included among them are 18 endangered species; more than 30 species of very rare birds; all 8 swan species; 30 of the just over 30 species of geese and more than 100 species of ducks.
And it truly is a park as opposed to some tourist attraction that merely bills itself as a park. The pleasant, neat, well-maintained 18-acre park-like environment is well laid out in a double-8 clearly marked pathway and divided into sectors dedicated to each of the seven continents (except, because of climate, Antarctica) plus sections focused on exotic birds, finches, pheasant, flamingos and swans, geese and cranes.

ECK_8206
The knob-billed duck, also known as a comb duck, is found in tropical wetlands in several areas of the world – sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, in Asia from southern China and Laos to Pakistan and in areas of South America, including Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina.

There is no other place in the country quite like Sylvan Heights Bird Park where visitors can observe up-close, and sometimes even interact with, such an amazing array of exotic and/or endangered birds, ducks, geese and swan from all parts of the world.
This great avian collection is the dream and culmination of a lifetime of work devoted to saving birds and waterfowl of Mike Lubbock who founded and directs this not-for-profit operation with his wife Ali and their son Brent and a small handful of staff and volunteers.
Widely recognized as the world’s leading expert on waterfowl, this farm boy from the Somerset area of England became fascinated with birds as a youth and began his career in ornithology at Britain’s prestigious Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust where he served first as a volunteer then as Curator and ultimately as Director of Aviculture. It’s also where he met his future wife, Ali, who was serving as a volunteer.

An egret -- vaguely distinguished from a heron. Its name is from the French word “aigrette’ which means “brush” or “silver heron” because of the way its feathers appear to cascade down its back during breeding season.

An egret — vaguely distinguished from a heron. Its name is from the French word “aigrette’ which means “brush” or “silver heron” because of the way its feathers appear to cascade down its back during breeding season.

His rare talent for bird breeding — his successes where others had failed – became widely known and resulted in his being personally consulted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who first turned to Mike for advice about her concern that the red-breasted geese among her bird collection at Buckingham Palace were reluctant to breed. The Queen followed his advice and one day she called Mike all excited about the change she credited him with bringing about. He became her go-to expert from then after.
Mike’s passion to preserve threatened waterfowl and other birds and promote conservation efforts has taken him all over the world and he has worked in this field he loves so much in both the UK and the USA. The International Wild Waterfowl Association, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame – they’ve also inducted Ali Lubbock — and bestowed upon him its most prestigious aviculture award, has said: “Mike Lubbock’s avicultural accomplishments on both sides of the Atlantic are legendary. He has brought many new species and new bloodlines in from the wild. He has accomplished many first breedings and he has been a source of bird and breeding advice to many.”

The white-cheeked pintail, also known as the Bahama pintail or summer duck, is found in South America, the Galapagos Islands and in the Caribbean.

The white-cheeked pintail, also known as the Bahama pintail or summer duck, is found in South America, the Galapagos Islands and in the Caribbean.

How Mike Lubbock path in life led him to realizing his and Ali’s dream of creating their own great avian collection park here in North Carolina is a long story and the subject of a recently released book, The Waterfowl Man of Sylvan Heights. What we Wake Audubon Society members need to know is that such a great birding experience that so few of us have been aware of for too long is so near-by and so well worth a visit.
The 18-acre park which is open to the public is an outgrowth of its adjacent 10-acre Breeding Center devoted to raising rare and endangered species of waterfowl. “The Park is designed to educate people about waterfowl and the importance of preserving them,” says Mike Lubbock. “Our goal is to tell visitors the story of every species–where it comes from, what habitat it prefers and why the species is important to our world. Visitors are also immersed into a wetland setting, so the feel and scope of a primary waterfowl habitat can be fully experienced.” Park generated revenue also helps fund the Breeding Center.
Among the many interesting facts about Sylvan Heights: It is credited with breeding 17 species of waterfowl for the first time in the world and 15 species for the first time in the North America and nearly one-third of the world’s once perilously endangered White-winged Wood Duck population reside here.

Both the male and female ringed teal, a small duck of South American forests, remain colorful all year.

Both the male and female ringed teal, a small duck of South American forests, remain colorful all year.

Naturally a place where visitors can come see waterfowl and other birds that include endangered and very rare species has to house them in a protective captive environment. For anyone who suggests that it is not a good thing to have birds in such a protected area, Mike Lubbock has a question: “Would you rather view an endangered species alive in a nice park-like environment such as Sylvan Heights Bird Park or dead in some museum?”
It is obvious that great thought and care have gone in to making Sylvan Heights the best possible experience both for those who visit it and for the birds and waterfowl who reside there. Besides being so pleasant and well-maintained the areas are extra good sized with exceptionally high nets. The water is very clear. The design is such as to insure maximum safety for the birds and waterfowl.

The southern screamer, also known as the crested screamer, is found in South America in areas of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.

The southern screamer, also known as the crested screamer, is found in South America in areas of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.

And here’s something truly smart that anyone who likes to photograph birds will appreciate: In places where otherwise you would normally expect to have to shoot through a wire fence, ruining any possibility of getting a very good photo, Sylvan Heights enables photographers to open an area in the fence that is wide enough to poke through a long lens and easily move it up or down and from side to side. You’ll need a key, which you can use while your driver’s license is held to insure its return. I thought this was a fantastic plus but asked if it didn’t pose any risk of what was being photographed somehow escaping through the resulting temporary small hole in the fence. No chance – the design prevents such a possibility.
Yet another interesting feature of Sylvan Heights is that within the park you can also observe and photograph birds and waterfowl in the wild. At Beaver Pond Blind, which overlooks a wetland, as its name suggests you can observe and photograph looking out of one of its many blinds. The wheelchair accessible Treehouse is a large roofed viewing platform located over another, larger wetland.

The hyacinth macaw or hyacinthine macaw, is the largest macaw and largest flying parrot species and is found in eastern and central South America. Endangered because of declining habit and trappings for the pet trade.

The hyacinth macaw or hyacinthine macaw, is the largest macaw and largest flying parrot species and is found in eastern and central South America. Endangered because of declining habit and trappings for the pet trade.

The feature probably most popular with kids in the interactive Landing Zone, a good sized building where parakeets will fly to you if you have a seed stick and you can feed flamingoes out of your hand. Seed sticks for the parakeets and food for feeding to flamingoes cost $1 and are available in the Landing Zone or the Visitor Center gift shop. Besides a variety of parakeets and the American Flamingos inside The Landing Zone visitors encounter parrots, doves, pheasants, pigeons and the white-rumped shama, a small passerine bird.
Tours of Sylvan Heights Bird Park begin at the Visitors Center, where you can watch an introductory video and check out some displays, sometimes baby birds or waterfowl. Its Gift Shop is small but nice. Sylvan Park does not operate any food service – but this very-family-friendly attraction welcomes anyone to bring a picnic lunch and provides a playground for the kids and a couple of picnic areas. It’s only a few minutes’ drive to any one of several restaurants and fast-food outlets in town.
While anyone living in Wake County or close by can do Sylvan Heights as a day-trip, we opted to devote more time and were glad we did. Anyone who enjoys photographing beautiful birds, as I certainly do, really should devote more than just one day to this great experience and take advantage of being able to shoot different sections in different lighting conditions.
What we would not recommend doing is following the accommodations recommendations of some of the reservations booking sites. Most we checked recommended staying in Roanoke Rapids, Rocky Mount or Tarboro – and each place is a 30 to 40 minute commute to and from Sylvan Heights on small country roads that are pitch black at night and best avoided at night especially, say, during deer season.

A crown pigeon, from Papua New Guinea, is the largest member of the pigeon family, as large as a full grown turkey hen.

A crown pigeon, from Papua New Guinea, is the largest member of the pigeon family, as large as a full grown turkey hen.

We stayed in Scotland Neck at the Scotland Neck Inn which compares favorably to any of the recommend motels that require a long commute. It was comfortable, very clean, good service and it’s reasonably priced, offering a discount for Sylvan Heights visitors. It was hot when we visited the park and it was nice to be able to return to the motel and freshen up during our lunch breaks. There is also a bed-and-breakfast in town.
Not surprisingly there’s not much to do in a town so tiny that it does not have a single traffic light and which, except for a few familiar fast-food spots, looks pretty much as it did in the 1950’s.
What did surprise us, as it has others, is that tiny Scotland Neck has a restaurant serving such outstanding Italian food – LaCasetta. My wife and I know Italian food pretty well, having lived in Rome and having traveled throughout so much of Italy – and LaCasetta, operated by an Italian who hails from Sicily, is great!
For anyone who enjoys birds or anyone who just wants to try something different a visit to Sylvan Heights Bird Park is a wonderful experience. Pretty much everyone who visits it gives it rave reviews.

The mute swan, so named because it is less vocal than other swans, is found in much of Europe and Asia and is an introduced species in North America, Australasia and southern Africa.

The mute swan, so named because it is less vocal than other swans, is found in much of Europe and Asia and is an introduced species in North America, Australasia and southern Africa.

When’s the best time of year to visit? Anytime. Ducks are at their best colors during the early months of the year, tropical birds during the summer months.
For more information about Sylvan Heights – including information about its hours, fees, events and its various educational programs – visit its website by clicking here.
The photos I’ve submitted to illustrate this feature give you a taste of the sorts of birds and waterfowl you will see, but to try to give you a better feel I’ve created a slide show video using images I took there. To watch it click on A Visit to Sylvan Heights Bird Park. You will be asked to enter a password. Enter: Birds. Capital B then lower case.

 

Spring Mountain Birding Fieldtrip

i Jun 29th 2 Comments by

Authored by John Gerwin

The now-annual spring (mid-May) mountain birding trip, co-sponsored by Wake Audubon and the Museum of Natural Sciences, was another fantastic weekend of bird-watching.  We were not-so-pleasantly surprised to wake up on Saturday morning to a temperature of 37 degrees!  And again it was mid-May. But that is how it is in the “northern” mountains of NC.

Bobolinkinflightresized

Bobolink in flight. Photo by Dan and Sue Harvey

We left Friday morning, and our first birding stop was at a familiar hayfield along the Blue Ridge Parkway where a dozen or more Bobolinks have been breeding for nearly a decade.  This year the winds were high which made for some great views of males doing their aerial courtship display flights, and chases of both males and females. Those same winds made it impossible to hear any sparrows that might have been singing – we suspect no self-respecting sparrow was even trying.  We next headed to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express (which gives our group a super low rate for this time of year).

DEJU-fem-wNestmaterial_MosesConeTroutLake2014_DanHarvey

Dark-eyed Junco female with nest material. Photo by Dan and Sue Harvey

On Saturday morning, the 23 of us headed for Trout Lake trails at Moses Cone Memorial Park. Here we found various warblers, such as Black-throated Blue, Canada, Hooded, Chestnut-sided and Blackburnian.  We watched a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers at their nest, feeding young, and an adorable Junco with nest material in its beak that looked like Witch’s Broom material – wispy, reddish-brown strands of something, nearly as long as the bird.

BaltimoreOrioleresized

Baltimore Oriole. Photo by Dan and Sue Harvey

We headed to the Valle Crucis Community Park for lunch and after-lunch birding. This site is wonderful for finding some cool birds that are then easy to view, such as Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Cedar Waxwing, Least and Willow Flycatchers, Yellow Warbler, and this year, a Yellow-throated Vireo at near eye level and a mere 30’ away when found and first watched.

SCTA_male_BRP_DanSueHarvey2012

Scarlet Tanager. Photo by Dan and Sue Harvey

On Sunday we spend the morning hours at a pullover just west of Elk Knob State Natural Area. Here we found Golden-winged Warbler and more Chestnut-sided Warblers, American Redstart, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, and Common Raven. We then went into the Park to rustle up a few more species. After this we headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Jeffress Park overlook. Here we found, as before, great views of Black-throated Green Warbler.  We heard Cerulean and Blackburnian but did not see either this time (we have in the past, at this spot). All in all, in spite of the low 30’s on Saturday, we had another great time enjoying the birds of this region, along with some of the spring flowers, and notoriously bad puns of from a couple of the leaders.

A Smattering of Wings Over Water

i Mar 18th No Comments by

By Bob Oberfelder

The Wings Over Water  (WOW) festival is an annual event that has provided excellent coastal birding opportunities for 17 years.  Up until this year, we (my wife and I) had not been able to participate, but I am glad to report that now that status has changed.  Although we would only be able to manage a short, whirlwind trip, we decided to “test the waters,” so to speak. This year we were able to carve out a day and a half from our schedule to sample from the multitude of options that WOW had to offer.

Lincoln Sparrow at Alligator River NWR

We drove to the coast Saturday morning arriving in time to participate in an afternoon trip to Bodie Island and the beach lead by Steve Shultz.  In the marsh, Steve played audio recordings to draw out the rails and marsh wrens. Unfortunately we were only able to hear the birds respond, they remained hidden in the marsh grass.  Hearing the large number of nearby birds (we were almost stepping on a few of them) was a highlight of that trip.  The ducks typically observed in the pond area were not there.  We saw and heard about 40 species for the afternoon.

Marsh Wren at Alligator River NWR

The main event on Saturday evening was a seafood buffet dinner at Pamlico Jack’s followed by a presentation by the keynote speaker, Greg Miller, of “The Big Year” fame.  Greg’s talk was excellent.  He was personable and unassuming but clearly knowledgeable about birding.  It was fun to hear him describe his surprise as the events of  The Big Year book and movie transpired. He described his developing interest in birding, and his personal Big Year adventures, as well as his experience with being the subject of both the book and the movie. Greg described his strategy  (i.e., the top 5 “must”  US/Canadian birding spots that provide the opportunity to record over 600 bird species) and the personal and financial costs ($31,000 in travel expenses) of pursuing his big year.  He described his surprise at being made one of the subjects of the book (he didn’t actually win his Big Year), which also included descriptions of the experiences of Sandy Komito and Al Levatin, his competitors. He was even more in awe when the movie (loosely associated with the facts of the real events) became a reality.  Greg described his joy at being a consultant for the movie and his interactions with the stars of the movie, Jack Black (who portrayed Greg in the movie) Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson.  Greg held down a full time job and still managed to see 715 species, a total that was third on the all time list.   According to the book, Sandy Komito is the only person that has ever seen more than Greg in a Big Year.

Pectoral Sandpiper Alligator River NWR

Sunday morning we visited Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), a trip lead by Jeff Lewis. Our species count was considerably better than the Bodie Island count, but it was more varied habitat, and it was a morning trip so that was not surprising.  My one previous experience (on my own) at NWR had been disappointing so I was quite happy with this trip. We saw both marsh and sedge wrens, and a Merlin on the wing. There was a large shorebird collection in a flooded field, which included Wilson’s Snipe, Pectoral Sandpipers, Greater, and Lesser Yellowlegs and both Long and Short-billed Dowitchers. There were also a variety of ducks including Northern Shovelers, and Pintails.  Perhaps the best bird of the trip, for, me was a Lincoln Sparrow that we saw at our very first stop in the refuge. There were numerous opportunities for photographs at Alligator River NWR. In contrast to my earlier experiences at Alligator NWR, birding with a knowledgeable trip leader made the birding excellent and the photographic opportunities plentiful.

Greater Yellowlegs Alligator River NWR

Our first experience with Wings Over Water was a success. The trip leaders were excellent, the birding was good, and the photography opportunities were plentiful. The dinner was enjoyable and the keynote speaker was outstanding.  The consensus was that the earlier date for the festival, October instead of November, probably attenuated the total bird count and decreased the number of species as well.  If our schedule permits, we will certainly participate in Wings Over Water next year.

Pine Island Trip Report

i Feb 14th No Comments by

February Blog – Pine Island Trip Report
Our chapter’s first field trip to the North Carolina Outer Banks was a great success. Thirty-seven chapter members and friends attended the January 4-6th trip. The main building at the Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary is an old hunting lodge. Several participants stayed at the lodge and enjoyed the rustic but comfortable setting. Others stayed at a hotel across the street and drove over to the lodge for the Friday evening wine and cheese social (thanks to all who contributed food and drink). Saturday morning we again met at the lodge to hear about the history of the Pine Island Sanctuary property and about Audubon’s plans for modest upgrades to the lodge, parking and trails. The property will be a place for research and education focusing on the birds of the marsh.

A coyote loped across the lawn, ending our talk of plans for the lodge and sending us outside. We walked down to the marsh where Kingfishers and Great Blue Herons watched the serene beauty of the winter marsh landscape. After a short tour to the rest of the sanctuary we headed south to explore Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, the Bodie Island Lighthouse and adjacent pond, the Bonner Bridge area and the ocean, via the beach and pier.

A group went to the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge to view the Snow Geese and Tundra Swans coming in from their day of foraging in neighboring fields. On Sunday, some folks stopped at Lake Mattamuskeet. A great variety of ducks, thousands of Tundra Swans, an American Bittern, and White-crowned Night Herons were the highlights. Here is a list of the birds seen on Saturday.

Loon, Red-throated
Loon, Common
Grebe, Pied-billed
Grebe, Horned


Gannet, Northern
Pelican, Brown
Cormorant, Double-crested
Heron, Great Blue
Egret, Great


Egret, Snowy
Heron, Tricolored
Ibis, White
Swan, Tundra
Goose, Canada
Goose, Snow
Duck, Wood
Teal, Green-winged
Duck, American Black
Mallard
Pintail, Northern
Teal, Blue-winged
Shoveler, Northern
Gadwall
Wigeon, American
Scoter, Black
Bufflehead
Merganser, Hooded
Merganser, Red-breasted
Duck, Ruddy
Vulture, Black
Vulture, Turkey
Eagle, Bald
Harrier, Northern
Moorhen, Common
Coot, American
Killdeer
Avocet, American
Yellowlegs, Greater
Willet
Sanderling
Sandpiper, Purple (Oregon Inlet)
Dunlin
Gull, Ring-billed
Gull, Herring
Gull, Great Black-backed
Tern, Caspian
Tern, Forster’s


Dove, Mourning
Pigeon (Dove, Rock)
Kingfisher, Belted
Crow, Fish
Crow, American
Chickadee, Carolina
Wren, Carolina
Wren, Marsh
Kinglet, Golden-crowned
Robin, American
Mockingbird, Northern
European Starling
Warbler, Yellow-rumped
Warbler, Palm
Yellowthroat, Common
Cardinal, Northern
Sparrow, Chipping
Sparrow, Savannah
Junco, Dark-eyed
Blackbird, Red-winged
Meadowlark, Eastern
Grackle, Boat-tailed
Finch, House

Thanks to Bob Oberfelder, one of our Wake Audubon trip participants, for sharing some of his photographs. To view more of his photographs from this trip, see the Wake Audubon Meet-up site, past trips.

Gerry Luginbuhl, President, Wake Audubon Society

Hog Island Magic

i Oct 24th No Comments by

by Lena Gallitano, North Carolina Audubon Board Member

Hog Island … the very name conjures up images that have little to do with an idyllic, forested island with a beautiful rocky Maine shoreline.  Years ago, Hog Island likely lived up to its name as a local farmer used it, yes, to graze his hogs.  No fences needed.  But today the slang definition of hog “to appropriate selfishly; take more than ones share” better defines this National Audubon treasure as campers and visitors over the years have taken with them more than their share of memories and experiences.  Lifetime friendships and even life partners are a product of Hog Island but equally important is the rejuvenation of our spiritual well-being that comes with time spent on the island.  Whether it’s the flora, fauna, food, programs, people or just the escape from our normal routine, participants often say time spent on Hog Island has been a positive life changing experience.

Educators, teens and adults, over the last 75 years, have experienced this remarkable place.  Wake Audubon sponsored a Wake County teacher in the 1980’s to attend an environmental educator camp so that knowledge could be shared with Wake county students.  In September, I volunteered at Hog Island and was inspired by the people and programs.  Scott Weidensaul, nature writer and author of Living on the Wind and other books; Dr. Steve Kress, Director of Project Puffin who successfully restored Atlantic Puffins in Maine at Eastern Egg Rock;  and, other Project Puffin staff who talked about their seabird restoration work.  The ripples from teachers and campers relating their knowledge and experiences continue to spread far and wide – not just in North Carolina, but across the United States.

And now it’s time to give back so others will be able to share the magic of Hog Island for years to come.  Friends of Hog Island is dusting off the cobwebs and working to reinvigorate the energy of the past to support Hog Island into the future.  Take a moment to explore the website, subscribe to the mailing list, and check out the 2011 calendar for a camp opportunity and perhaps you too will discover the magic of Hog Island.

The Bucket List Trip

i Aug 31st No Comments by

The Bucket List Bird, by Angie DeLozier, Wake Audubon Secretary.

Western Grebes

My husband and I just came back from a 3-week trip through the northwest, which was a lifetime goal for him. As birdwatchers, we were filled with hopes of seeing some of the many pacific birds missing in our life list. I will not describe most of the regular birds we saw since we learned quickly that riding the Amtrak from Chicago, IL to Portland, OR and from Sacramento, CA to Chicago, was not an ideal way to bird watch. We did get to see some Pronghorn Antelopes, Red Tailed Hawks, Common Crows and many ULB’s (Unidentified Little Bird). All this looking out the windows of our sleeper car at 80/90 miles an hour.

The birding fun began at our stay in Glacier National Park with the presence of 3 Black Billed Magpies that were common daily, in front of the lodge. White Crowned Sparrows were seed picking the lengthy flowerbed from the lodge to the train station. Cedar Waxwings were plentiful in the area and seeing several Cassin’s Finch was a first for us. Then the Grey Jays and Colombian Squirrels appeared on our drive through the Road To The Sun. Now that is the 2nd most spectacular scenic road we’ve ever driven. Waterfalls galore in sizes, shapes and force. The few remaining Glaciers, the peaks and depths are breathtaking plus add the wildflowers! At Lake McDonald we took the boat tour and saw a pair of Bufflehead Ducks and some Tree Swallows. Sitting to rest on the porch of its lodge we saw our first Red-naped Sapsucker and his tree hole. While visiting the Logan’s Pass Visitor Center we also saw two Mountain Goats and a doe which standing about 10 feet from my husband decided to urinate (See picture).

We saw the Black Terns for the first time too.

At Crater Lake we admired Red Mantled Squirrels, Clarks Nutcrackers, Mountain Bluebirds, Mountain Chickadees, Oregon Juncos, Pine Siskins, Pine Warblers, Brown Creeper, Red Breasted Nuthatches, Townsend’s Solitaire and our first Bushtit happened at the Pinnacles trail. Seeing Western Tanagers at the Wildflower Garden was a delight again. Stellar Jays were common.

While driving the CA coast highway, we got our Western Gulls. Saw bulls/females seals sunning. A magnificent “Unknown” Red Sea Star on a pier support (See picture). Wild turkeys, Tricolored Blackbirds, Osprey, Glossy Ibis, hundreds of Cowbirds (with cow herd), Killdeers, and Marbled Godwits. We will not forget the sight in Clear Lake of hundreds of Western Grebes with their chicks (see picture). And last but not least, we spotted two Chestnut Backed Chickadees, which my husband had wanted to add to his list before we left Raleigh, NC. And to top that, our first California Towhee, with a large whitish moth/butterfly in his beak, paraded in front of our car and from side to side in the bushes for about 10 mins.