Croatan National Forest, NC, 4/29-30/16

All photos are Marshall Faintich

April 30, 2016

We left the hotel to go birding at 7:00 a.m. The skies were very dark, and there was light drizzle. I was getting worried that I might not get another chance at photographing a Bachman's Sparrow. We started off at the Patsy Pond Nature Trail, and planned to bird in the opposite direction from the prior afternoon. By the time we arrived at the nature trail, the drizzle had stopped, but it was still very dark. We wondered if the noise from the jets at the air show would keep the birds hunkered down, but the only planes we had heard were the afternoon before after the sun came out. We hiked a short distance when I heard a Bachman's Sparrow. I walked toward the sound, but couldn't see the bird. And then I saw movement at the base of some vegetation. It was a Bachman's Sparrow singing from ground level. The bird then popped up for a minute or so and sang some more. My photo life bird #600! It was quite dark, and the photos a bit grainy, but a Bachman's for sure.


Bachman's Sparrow


Bachman's Sparrow


Bachman's Sparrow

We saw a fair number of avian species on that trail, including a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers at their nesting cavity.


Red-headed Woodpecker


Red-headed Woodpecker


Eastern Towhee


Eastern Kingbirds

And then we saw two more Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. They were foraging above and under tree branches. That made five of this species we had seen so far on this trip.


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker

We went back to Pringle Road at route 24, and went north. There were lots of Prairie Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and other species. We saw two very large squirrels; one was black and the other brown and black.


Common Yellowthroat


Squirrel

Walt and I planned to stop and spend some time at the Red-cockaded Woodpecker tree where we had seen three of them the previous afternoon. These woodpeckers tend to only be at their nesting sites early in the morning and late in the afternoon, and spend the rest of the day foraging elsewhere. As there had been a lot of other birds at that spot, we hoped for more birds this morning. But we stopped first at one of the trails, and hiked it a short distance when I heard another Bachman's Sparrow. This one was a lot more cooperative, and it sang from a low perch for a few minutes before flying up to a tree.


Bachman's Sparrow


Bachman's Sparrow


Bachman's Sparrow


Bachman's Sparrow


Bachman's Sparrow


Bachman's Sparrow


Bachman's Sparrow


Bachman's Sparrow


Bachman's Sparrow

When we got to the woodpecker site, there was a lot of activity - more Red-headed Woodpeckers and some other birds, and then the fun began again. Six Red-cockaded Woodpeckers flew in. Three of them were probably the same ones that we saw the afternoon before, but now we had eight different ones for the trip.


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker


Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Wow! But we still had another high priority target bird - a Swainson's Warbler. We drove back to Millis Road and turned right. We stopped before FSR 168 when I heard a Swainson's Warbler, but no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't see it. So we continued on. FSR 168 is not driveable, and the entrance is now blocked to vehicular traffic, but the guide book said it was a good place for Swainson's Warblers, so we hiked in after getting a quick glimpse of a Magnolia Warbler at the entrance. We were not disappointed!


Swainson's Warbler


Swainson's Warbler


Swainson's Warbler


Swainson's Warbler


Swainson's Warbler

Walt and I were happy campers - all three of our target birds in less than 24 hours. We decided to try the same road where we had seen the Yellow-throated Warbler the previous afternoon. There were Indigo Buntings, Great Crested Flycatchers, and other avian species. The best bird there was a female Northern Parula that landed right in front of me to gather nesting materials.


Northern Parula


Northern Parula


Northern Parula


Northern Parula


Northern Parula


Northern Parula


Northern Parula


Northern Parula

It was now 2:00 p.m., and we had planned to leave for home no later than 3:00. Summer Tanagers and a few other interesting species had been reported in the northern part of the Croatan NF along County Line Road, so we retraced our route back toward Havelock. When we got to US 70, there were police cars everywhere. State and miltary police were directing traffic into MCAS Cherry Point for the air show and Blue Angels. Traffic was a mess, but we were going the other direction toward New Bern. We got off of US 70, and after a few miles, our Google app wanted us to go back south on US 70. No way! We decided to head for home. There was bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic for eight miles heading to the air show, while we had no traffic going north. We ended the trip with 47 avian species.

North Carolina trip list (almost all in the Croatan National Forest)

American Crow
American Robin
Bachman's Sparrow
Black Vulture
Blue Jay
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Brown Thrasher
Brown-headed Cowbird
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Canada Goose
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Cliff Swallow
Common Grackle
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Towhee
Eastern Wood-Pewee
European Starling
Gray Catbird
Great Blue Heron
Great Crested Flycatcher
House Sparrow
Indigo Bunting
Laughing Gull
Magnolia Warbler
Mallard
Mourning Dove
Northern Bobwhite
Northern Cardinal
Northern Flicker
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Parula
Pileated Woodpecker (heard only)
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-winged Blackbird
Rock Pigeon
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Swainson's Warbler
Turkey Vulture



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