Monday, December 31, 2012

After Christmas Visits

After a quiet Christmas Day at home, Bill and I got back into our new red car and headed north to South Carolina and a super wonderful (but short) visit with son John, much-more-than-a-girlfriend Megan, daughter Pamela, hubby extraordinaire Orlando and three of my very special (and active!) grandsons. They gave us a four-leaf clover to hang in our car - to keep us safe - and a newfangled Keurig coffee maker. While there, the boys visited yet another Aviation Museum while baby Leandro and Megan napped (she is a nurse and works nights) and Pamela & I visited. Short, but very, very sweet.

We left early on Friday and headed to our next adventure - a visit with my sister Beth (, her husband Warren, and four cats. They winter on Kure Beach, just south of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Port Fisher is on the south end of the island and we did a little birding in the area. Beth claims she saw Oystercatchers and a Marbled Godwit earlier in the week, but we saw no evidence of either on our chilly walk. The Southport to Fort Fisher Ferry chugged by.

This Mockingbird was the only evidence of bird life.

Carolina Beach Lake was another story! We saw Bufflehead Ducks...

this gorgeous female Lesser Scaup...

a silly-looking White Crested Duck (a domestic variety)...

lots of Mallards...

and this FABULOUS Long-tailed Duck!! (Don't tell Beth, but seeing this duck was our real reason for the visit.) Our first new Life Bird of the trip.

He entertained us by flapping his wings.

I think I like him ALMOST as much as my Wood Ducks!

The next day we again tried the southern-most part of the island, but instead of birds, we found a flock of wind-surfers with their colorful wings flying over the chilly water.

Since Beth had failed to showed me the promised flock of Oystercatchers and the lone Marbled Godwit, she decided to share her "Secret Beach." The access was washed away by Sandy, but we walked to the end of the wooden path where we met another birder, Bruce Smithson. He was a wealth of information and pointed out species we would have never otherwise noticed.

The first was a lone Red-throated Loon way in the distance, my second Life Bird of the trip.

Another view of the Red-throated Loon.

We also saw this larger, less elegant Common Loon swimming near-by.

I know, terrible pictures but I have lots of excuses - they were far away and kept diving for fish and since it was late in the day, the light was terrible. I just hope I have them properly identified!

Bruce also pointed out the Northern Gannets flying above the surf - my third new Life Bird!

Beautiful birds!!

I wish they had been closer, but am pleased they came in as close as they did.

While I was watching the Northern Gannets, a flock of Brown Pelicans flew by. They were beautifully highlighted by the fading sunlight.

A small flock of Bufflehead Ducks (mostly all male - one female) played in the surf - riding high on the swells and diving under the breaking waves.

My fourth new Life Bird of the trip was this large seabird - a Razorbill. Lillian Stokes (Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America) has been reporting a rare invasion of Razorbills off the coast of Florida and has some amazing pictures on her blog (

The sun was setting on Kure Beach as we chatted with our new best friend, Bruce Smithson. He was a fabulous find and a great teacher. Thanks Bruce!

And very special thanks to Beth and Warren for being such great hosts. We really did come to see both of you - but the FOUR NEW LIFE BIRDS in TWO DAYS was extra-special. As Arnold is famous for saying - "I'll be back!"

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