Valentines Day in Hatteras, NC

For Valentines Day we spent the weekend in the outer banks.  We did a little four wheeling on the beach in my brand new 1994 Jeep Wrangler YJ!! Brian and I stayed in cute cabanas on the beach. They were all one room cabins on stilts and were privately owned so each one had its own personality! When we got to Hatteras National Seashore, we checked out the light house and the snow started coming down! Quite a sight!

Cape Hatteras Light and heavy snow coming down

When we got to the tip of Hatteras, where all the fisherman usually are…..we sat and watched hundreds of thousands of Great Comorants fly in from the south in the snow. We were so amazed! We drove around a little on the beach, but it was cloudy and snowing so we decided to head to the Cabana for the night. We had homemade meatballs and rice. yum! The snow finally stopped and the moon came out. It was beautiful!

The next day, we went back to the seashore and drove on the beach a little more.  I was kind of hoping to see purple sandpipers. But instead I saw a Black-bellied Plover! I probably have seen these guys before, just didn’t know what they were. This little one was hanging out near lots of seagulls and sanderlings all by itself.

Lone Black-bellied Plover

I was also pleased to see the Forster’s Tern return. They have such tiny legs!

Forster's Terns Preening

A couple of months ago, we found a short trail that went behind the dunes. We usually see a small family of deer back here. They had two little ones with them this time. I coudln’t get a shot with all of their heads up! This little one ran right out in front of the jeep! I read that Hatteras has tiny deer like Florida has, but I’m not sure if this is just a white-tailed deer. Cute little deer – isn’t it?

Tiny Deer

I think it is so fun to watch the little sanderlings searching for anything they can hide behind to protect them from the wind… just to catch a light snooze.

Sanderlings hiding from the wind

We Left Hatteras to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. My FAVORITE place!! I could never get tired of this refuge. Always tons and tons of birds…. AND GUESS WHAT?!? I FINALLY GOT TO SEE SNOW GEESE! Oh I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was! Brian and I were driving to the parking lot of pea Island and I about had a heart attack. They were literally 50 ft away. I made him pull over on the side of the road so I could capture the moment but most of them flew away when we stopped.

My winter goal - to Photograph Snow Geese!

After snapping a couple shots, hoping at least one was in focus, We headed up Route 12 to Pea Island’s parking lot…

OH MY GOD BRIAN PULL OVER!!!!

A bittern was on the side of the road… Literally on the side of the road.  I couldn’t believe it! I made him turn around and creep up slowly  so I could snap a shot of this elusive bird. A lifer for me…. I’ve heard their distinctive mating call at my camper, but have never seen one. I managed to snap a few shots before he did a really cool move into the reeds. We took off, only to see another only 15 ft away!

American Bittern - A Lifer Bird

When I got home  and reviewed my pictures, I had in fact seen 5 that day! WOW! Bitterns will freeze, stretch their necks up with bill to the sky and sway side to side to imitate reeds! neat huh? Another lifer bird for me was the White Pelican. I’m sure people see them all the time, but I have never seen one of these birds before. They were so HUGE!

White Pelican in Flight - Breeding Male (Lifer)

Once we made it to Pea Island’s parking lot. We set out to walk the trail. There were tons of birds! Tundra Swans, Shovelers, Pintails, Weigons, Coots, Mallards, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, Egrets, Blue herons, and lots of Brown Pelicans. I think they dive for fish very oddly…. I watched one fall to the surface of the water and PLOP! I thought he was dead! But he had an awesome catch apparently!

Pelican Gobbling down his catch

I Enjoyed watching the Buffleheads forage. There were so many at the refuge. I think pictured here is a juvenile and a female. Maybe mom is teaching the little one to dive for food? Anyways, it has a pretty nice size frog!

Buffleheads - One with a Frog Dinner!

Pretty Female Bufflehead

It was sort of a windy day, so we didn’t walk the whole trail. On our way back we saw tons of white ibis. I have never seen a juvenile. They sure are different looking.

Juvenile White Ibis with two Adults

I had a really great birding weekend!  I’ve only seen ring-necked ducks at Pea Island one other time, but they were too far away to photograph. I had a couple swim close to me while walking the trail. I’m happy I could get them together in a picture! :)

Sweet Ring-necked duck couple

Brian treated me to a very nice weekend for Valentines Day. What more could a girl want – Birding, Beach Cabin and Four-wheeling in her new JEEP!? Hell yah!

Brian in my 1994 Classic YJ Jeep Wrangler

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Alligator River NWR is absolutely beautiful. They have paddling trails, wildlife drive trails, and nature trails, where you might be fortunate enough to see black bears, alligators, or even red wolves! We’ve been here before…We just wanted to come down again to explore all of the driving trails on 154,000 acres! We did a little “four wheeling” on some of the more muddy and over grown trails. It was a beautiful sunny day!

Brian's muddy TJ from wildlife trails

We were really hoping to see alligators, but it was cold. My dad had visited Alligator River a couple weeks earlier and he told me he saw one… so I know they are here, but I’m sure we won’t see any till this summer. I also wanted t0 see SNOW GEESE! Brian and I over heard a man talking about seeing them here when we were at Pea Island NWR. Unfortunately we didn’t see any.  We saw lots of Tundra Swans, Northern Pintails, and Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs. Most of them where too far away to photograph.

Lone Tundra Swan

Tundra Swan Family :)

The winter has been really cold this year! Today, it was a little warm and in the upper 50’s. All of the Tree Swallows were going nuts over all the little gnats hovering in the sunshine. I managed to capture a couple of neat shots.

Tree Swallow hovering over water

Tree Swallow swooping in for a gnat snack

While driving on the wildlife trails.  We saw lots and lots of red-tailed hawks. One flew directly over top of the jeep.

Red Tailed Hawk scanning for food

And while I was taking pictures of the Red-tailed, a tree swallow landed right in front of our jeep, and wouldn’t move!

Stubborn Tree Swallow

We enjoyed our sunny day at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. I can’t wait to visit in the spring and summer and maybe I’ll get to see some gators or even a Red Wolf! till then…

Kestrel