By Sean Higgins, Wake Audubon Board member
In April, 15 teens joined the Mysterious Carolina Bay Lakes excursion cosponsored by the Wake Audubon Young Naturalists and the Museum of Natural Sciences Junior Curators. Many people generously contributed resources, time and energy to make this a Spring Break to remember for these youth.
Lynn Cross has an absolutely amazing rapport with high school students (not to mention her expertise in the art of smores)! Big props to staff at Singletary Lake State Park and Lake Waccamaw State Park. Staff of both went way out of their way to accommodate our group and make us feel quite welcome… despite both parks having major events on the same days including a county-wide Environmental Field Day at Lake Waccamaw. Ranger Lane Garner gave a great overview of “What is a Carolina Bay?”, Superintendent Chris Helms guided us in a freshwater mussel survey, and I&E Specialist Brittany Whitaker guided night activities. We even had an impromptu live alligator program onboard the bus when N.C. Museum of Forestry educator Kellie Lewis flagged us down on the side of the road.
Who knows where Spring Break 2012 could take these groups? Bear Island? A river trip? Or will the groups brave the unpredictable spring weather in the mountains?
You are receiving this email because you play a valuable role in these programs, perhaps behind the scenes. Cheers to a new generation of conservationists!
Canoeing at Singletary Lake. With the fierce wind, we made it all the way around the lake in about 2 1/2 hours. Next time we’ll bring a catamaran.
Collecting and observing aquatic critters as the sun sets on Singletary Lake. You can almost hear the voice of Otis Redding through the trees.
Add Tidewater Fatmucket to your life list!
Don’t pick up hitchhikers… especially the crocodilian kind.
Log… log… log… whoa, there’s a gator!
By Nathan Swick, Wake Audubon Board Member
I led the monthly Wake Audubon field trip to Anderson Point Park, one of Raleigh’s city parks and the one with which Wake Audubon has had a long-standing partnership, last week. A group of a dozen joined me as we strolled through the fields and forests puzzling over myriad sparrows, gaping at gorgeous Eastern Bluebirds singing atop the nest boxes erected by Wake Audubon, and chatting about birds at feeders and what we’ve seen recently. You know, the usual stuff. A Fish Crow honked overhead early on, the first one I’ve seen this year and the first real sign that spring is around the corner in this part of North Carolina.
We followed the path into the woods to the actual “point”, where Crabtree Creek flows into the Neuse River, and came across a beautiful adult Red-headed Woodpecker. Red-heads have grown scarce in the Triangle, especially within the city limits, and you couldn’t really get a nicer bird for a bird walk if you’d ordered it out of a catalog. Everyone got fantastic looks as it vaulted back and forth between a massive sycamore and a broken oak limb. He paid close attention to the tip of the break, and we wondered if he’d cached acorns there.
We saw Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Flickers too, only the Pileated and Hairy away from the woodpecker slam. No one seemed disappointed though. The embodiment of economy of color that is a Red-headed Woodpecker tends to sate just about any would-be bird walker.
A flock of sparrows drew my attention so I lead the group to a little seep where we picked up a super obliging (I’m obliged to use that word in a trip report at least once) Hermit Thrush. When you’re looking to show a group of birders the cool things around them that they might not normally see by themselves, Hermit Thrush is a definite goodie. Not only does it have lots of memorable field marks, both physically and behaviorally, but it’s quiet and easily overlooked. This bird stayed right out in the open where everyone got killer looks. I have to say, as a bird walk leader, I was feeling pretty good about the way things were going.
The resident Loggerhead Shrike was a no-show, and too bad too as I was hoping to pick it up for my Big Year, but the day was a success. Everyone got great looks at the two best birds and I picked up a Fish Crow for the year.
The next bird walk at Anderson Point Park will be held March 12. We hope to see you there!
By Jeff Beane, Wake Audubon Vice-President.
The Young Naturalists Club enjoyed a successful trip to the Albemarle Peninsula on Saturday, 22 January 2011. This trip featured the wildlife (focusing on birds and mammals), wildlife refuges, and wild lands of the Albemarle Peninsula, and included portions of Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, and Washington counties. Trip leaders were Jeff Beane and Ed Corey; Miranda Wood also attended as a female chaperone. Club participants were Matt Burroughs, Matt Daw, Seth Gaffer, Jo Himes, Nate Laughner, and Kristen Shireman.
Our primary destinations were Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. We left Raleigh at just after 8:00 a.m. En route, we stopped at a couple of places along U.S. 64 to look at waterfowl, and were lucky enough to pick out a couple of Ross’s Geese from a mixed flock of mostly Canada Geese and Snow Geese near Plymouth. These were lifers for most of the group, though we were afforded only a fleeting look at them before a Bald Eagle flushed the flock.
The day was cold, windy, and overcast, and temperatures did not make it above freezing all day. We had a snow shower at Alligator River, which became heavy enough at times to hinder our visibility, but we still saw a good variety of birds, most notable of which was a Swainson’s Hawk that passed directly above our heads. We were also able to approach two American Bitterns very closely. We were not, however, able to turn up any of the hoped-for Black Bears, Bobcats, or Red Wolves.
We next headed for the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes, where we had originally planned to spend a good bit of time. However, having heard several reports that the spectacular Snow Goose flocks of the previous weeks had not been seen recently, and that there had otherwise been little significant activity there, we stopped by that refuge for only an hour or so, during which time we saw very little other than the usual Tundra Swans and a few blackbird flocks. We added only a handful of new species to our bird list and again struck out on bears.
Our last stop of the evening was a Beaufort County wetland mitigation site, where a good number of Short-eared Owls had been reported recently. Arriving about an hour before full dark, we were able to find shelter from the freezing wind behind a storage building; there we waited, keeping watch over a large, wet field where numerous Northern Harriers were foraging. At sunset we were rewarded with probably at least seven Short-eared Owls, and were able to get good looks at some of them. These also represented a lifer bird for most of the group.
We capped off the day with a Pizza Inn buffet in Washington, and arrived back in Raleigh at about 9:10 p.m. We ended with at least 67 bird species, but it was a rather poor day for mammals. White-tailed Deer were the only live mammals that we confirmed; we also saw at least one Nutria, a Gray Fox or two, and several opossums and raccoons as road-kills. Despite the cold weather, a good time was had by all, and everyone learned something.
By Kari Wouk, Wake Audubon Board member
On a cold winter’s morning this past Saturday, 12 Wake Auduboners ventured out at Anderson Point Park to learn about Cunning Corvids and enjoy a winter bird walk. I brought a couple of specimens from the Naturalist Center at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences-the two specimens we were most likely to see-an American Crow and a Blue Jay (we saw both). We talked about corvids, their amazing intelligence, learning behavior and remarkable adaptations.
Then, we headed out for a walk around the park. We saw many of the normal species for the season, including Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Cardinals, Dark-eyed Juncos and more. A Red-headed Woodpecker gave us wonderful views. Things didn’t get really interesting until we got out to the point, though! There we saw a suspicious crime scene. There was some nice mud, just perfect for animal tracks! There were some tracks that were obviously raccoon but right next to them were tracks that were much smaller, though superficially similar (check out our Facebook page for photos). Right next to the tracks was a corpse! The unfortunate critter was a White-footed Mouse, looking a little worse for the wear. It had obviously been there for a little while since it was splattered with mud.
So, we ask, what happened? After consulting with some experts at the Museum (thanks John Connors and Mike Dunn), it was decided that 1) the tracks belonged to a muskrat and 2) the dead mouse was circumstantial and unrelated. Muskrats do not eat mice. So, the mystery goes unsolved but maybe someone will come along have a nice little mousie snack for free.
After the walk, some of us stayed and cleaned out the nest boxes. Wake Audubon has a variety of nesting places (not all are boxes) for birds at Anderson Point. Unfortunately, no sign of nesting Purple Martins at the martin house. We had our usual huge success with bluebirds-six out of ten boxes were used (and one of the unused ones was on the ground, so that doesn’t really count). There was no sign of nesting in the kestrel box. Of the three flicker boxes, one was empty, one had a squirrel nest in it (with a mummified baby squirrel in it) and the other had a nest of grasses (Connors theorizes starling). Both phoebe cups had evidence of nesting. We did not check the four prothonatory boxes or the chimney swift tower (our ladder was not tall enough!) but I hope to get to that soon.
All in all, a very successful day in nature!