DayTrippin’ – Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

I’m sorry Folks, I’ve been a busy bee. Brian and I have been to Key West, camping in Newport News, camping in Hatteras, day trips to Carova Beach, Oregon Inlet, First Landing Park, Munden Point and so on! Plus I work for the city of Virginia Beach Parks and Natural Areas department, so I have been neglecting the whole blog thing, which is kind of sad because I love it so much!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Alligator river is an amazing place. It’s an 154,000 acre refuge that has tons of roads to drive and explore including a few places to to launch your kayak or canoe and also a couple of walking trails…Today, our objective is to look for bears and red wolves… We started our trip in Moyock, NC (where we  now live) and drove down 17 through Elizabeth City, Hartford, and Columbia… The Town of Columbia is a really cute older waterfront area… I recommend stopping and checking out their wildlife center for the sounds. It’s beautiful! There’s a pier-style trail to walk and who knows – you may even have a chance of spotting a bear!

We stopped and ate lunch at Mikes Kitchen in Columbia just over the bridge. This place was actually realllly good, I will definitely be looking forward to going there again! Usually when Brian and I go to Alligator River Refuge we try to just go down whatever driving trails  are open… because you never know which ones are open and if it is you should go down it, because you might not be able to go down that trail again until the following year. We drove around and spotted tons of Tree Swallows and Yellow-rumped Warblers… along with a few Sulphur butterflies fluttering around.

….And as we were driving on one of the roads, we saw a large bird fly into a tree next to the Jeep….

Originally I thought it was a hawk of some sort, but then it turned and looked at us and Brian says “Holy Shit!! — look an owl!” I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t know what to do….. I tried to hurry up and turn on my camera, but as usual when I want it to turn on quickly it takes FOREVER then I have to change the settings to manual and blah blah blah, because remember I use a Point and Shoot….ha..so I tried to get a shot before he flew off. This is the only shot I got….

Barred Owl

Honestly, I was happy with that single shot I had gotten, but then…the owl decided to fly across the road and landed on a branch…It looked back at us, not really worried about us being there.

Barred Owl checking us out

I decided to get out of the Jeep.  Figured if the owl wasn’t that worried about me, then it wouldn’t mind if i tried to get a few more shots! Well, once I got out of the Jeep the owl flew off again, but not that far. I decided I would walk down the road a little – very quietly and try once again to get another shot of this beautiful owl! It was almost impossible for me to find this amazingly camouflaged creature. I kept loosing sight every time I would have to take my eye off of the owl for a split second to raise my view finder to my eyeball. Oh man, It was insane how much it blended in with its surroundings!

Camouflaged Barred Owl

On our way out I saw a Cormorant diving in one of the “ditches”…. when Brian passed him, he was going sort of fast. I asked him to stop and reverse because there was a bird I wanted to get a shot of…. He said, “Won’t the bird fly off?” I said, “Nah, probably not this one” and sure enough, there was the Cormorant…now out of the water. He posed…. several times, and then we drove off. Oh it was great. I can’t wait to visit this place again. Every season is beautiful!

 

Cormorant Drying Plumage

Double-crested Cormorant

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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