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Waif bye-bye

September 6, 2010
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Earl,as far as hurricanes go and with obvious deference to the destructive powers of wind and waves, was kind of a bust for those storm-tossed species that birders like us hope to glean from the passing weather.  There were periods over the last week where it seemed that some of the wind and rain associated with Earl would strike as far inland as the triangle.  Generally, for any storm birds to show up, even incidental ones like Laughing Gulls and Least Terns, species common onshore but rarely seen more than a few miles inland, we have to get at least some rain.  As it was, there was little to none in my neck of the woods over Thursday night when the storm brushed the Outer Banks.

But still, hope springs eternal in the mind of a birder, and there’s certainly no chance at storm waifs if there’s no one there to look for them.  It’s the birders take on the tree falling in the forest conundrum.  So with the longest of long shots I headed out to Jordan Lake Saturday morning to see if any storm-blown birds were really blown off course.  Plus, some of the recreational points are pretty good migrant traps.  Two birds with one stone, so to speak.

I arrived before the gates were scheduled to open at 8:00 am.  I don’t understand why state parks can’t open up before then as eight is entirely too late for a bird-savvy audience.  I’m almost certain it has something to do with budget constraints (nearly everything does around here), so I parked my car off to the side by the entrance, and headed in on foot where I soon came across a family of Pine Warblers still feeding recent fledglings.  This had to be at least a third brood, they must have had a good year again.

The actual lake overlook at Ebenezer Point commands a considerable view of the deepest part of the lake.  As I walked in instead of driving, I had left my scope back in the car so a real in depth scan of the lake was probably impossible.  It was just as well, the only lake birds evident were a half dozen Double-crested Cormorants, a couple Osprey and a distant flock of what were almost certainly Forster’s Terns.  The terns were the only potential storm birds, but there would be nothing short of a return (re-tern even?) address that would indicate that these were weather driven individuals and not the regular migrating Forster’s Terns anyone would expect to find here on any given fall morning so shearwaters were too much to expect (not that I expected them at all anyway).

But the vulture roost in a half dead Oak tree was hopping.  The sun was getting up in the sky and several of the Turkey Vultures were following it, but a couple Black Vultures watched we warily from an upper perch.  One even indulged me in a little Cathatidic yoga.  I believe this one is called “downward facing carrion”.  Ommmmm.

As I watched the kettle of Turkey Vultures, I quickly noticed a pair of first year Bald Eagles in the mix as well.  Their huge size was obvious as was the fact that the Vultures seemed a little irritated that had to share airspace as they constantly harassed the young eagles.  Jordan Lake is home to one of the largest populations of breeding Bald Eagles in the state, with nearly half a dozen nests every year.  While it’s impossible to be sure, I think it’s likely that these birds were from the resident population

A quick walk through some of the picnic sites turned up several groups of Chickamice, within one was a single Chestnut-sided Warbler, the first legitimate migratory species of the year for me.  In another 10 days or so we’ll be crawling in them, but the first is always a little special.

It was with a spring in my step that nothing but migratory warblers can produce that I walked back to my illegally parked car.  I was promptly stopped by a park ranger who gave me a stern talking to, informing me that he was called the towing agency not more than a few minutes ago.  About this time my spring turned into a run as I made it back and got away before any sign of the offending tow truck could be found.  Safe again!  Take that State Parks*!

*Not to be directed at the many friends I have that work in North Carolina State Parks.  Sorry guys.

But let’s be real here folks.  Would it be possible to extend the hours to 7:00?  I’d even be willing to compromise with 7:30.  You’re move, state of North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.  I await your judgment.

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3 Comments
  1. September 6, 2010 9:38 am

    Up here in Nova Scotia’s southwest shore we had a direct hit from Earl and a nice fallout of storm orphans, the best being a lone black skimmer, rare here up north. Many laughing gulls plopped down too waiting for the winds to abate.

  2. September 6, 2010 2:11 pm

    Most national parks here in Costa Rica present similar problems with their opening times. Luckily, park rangers tend to allow people to enter and pay later but there isnt any place to park a vehicle. It sure would be nice if the state parks in North Carolina and national parks here could just be open all the time.

  3. Nate permalink*
    September 8, 2010 1:16 pm

    @Jane- Very cool! I’m glad Earl ended up pushing some interesting stuff up your way. We’ll have to wait for the next one I guess.

    @Pat- I wish, though I do understand the need to prevent theft and vandalism. There are some campsites in the park so you can stay all night if you pay. But for early morning birders, you’re just out of luck.

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