Great black-backed gull

Birding at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge – A Photographer’s Diary

Winter was upon us. After a year of being cooped up indoors (and doing a spot of doorstep birding without complaint), I made a trip to the Outerbanks, North Carolina. The Outerbanks has multiple wetlands that shelter migratory birds during winter and spring. A couple of trips to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge gave me some quality sightings, including a number of lifers.

Great black-backed gull at Pea Island
Great black-backed gull

The Outerbanks is an interesting geographical landform. It is a tiny finger of land that runs parallel to the mainland. There is the bay on the inside and the Atlantic Ocean on the outside. Plenty of wetlands scattered around form birding hotspots, one of which is Pea Island NWR — a huge lake that teems with migrants in winter.

Most of the birds that we had seen were ducks, pelicans and gulls, but there was also an abundance of Common Coots and Tundra Swans and even a Northern Harrier. The skies were azure and the sun shone crisply. And though there was a bite in the winter air, we spent hours in the outdoors.

A Bufflehead male (Bucephala Albeola) in breeding plumage screams for attention.
Pied billed grebe
An immature Pied Billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) gives us the Bambi eyes.
A flock of snow geese
A flock of Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens)
Hooded merganser, female
A female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
Master of camouflage, American Bittern
A master of camouflage, this American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
Northern Shoveller, male
A male Northern Shoveller (Anas clypeata) 
Northern Pintail takes flight
A Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) takes flight
Tundra swan
A Tundra swan (Cygnus columbianus) is a picture of serenity and grace.
American Coot
An American Coot (Fulica americana) contemplating whether the water is warm enough for a swim.
American White Pelican
An American White Pelican(Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)  takes a leisurely morning swim

I have better plans for next winter, to go to Pea Island NWR on time to catch the passage migrants. Until then, enjoy this post and watch this space!

Read more posts from North America:

Whiteout: Winter Storm Thor shows his artistic side

Americana – a birding diary from the United States

Encounter – Anna’s Hummingbird

Slumbering Giants – Northern Elephant Seals of Point Reyes

Encounter: The Bald Eagle, America’s most majestic raptor



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