Today was an early start as we wanted to be back at the Croatan and get the singing Bachman’s Sparrows. We slowed briefly on the way in to listen to a Yellow-breasted Chat and a mystery noise that was likely a Red-shouldered Hawk, although being next to a farm we weren’t sure it wasn’t something more exotic (another farm up the road had guinea fowl running around). We went straight to the place we had the sparrows last night and had no luck whatsoever (one quick distant song was it). We did have more Brown-headed Nuthatches, including one that came close to posing, a gnatcatcher at a nest, and a perched Turkey Vulture.
[Update: I had the Stokes CD on recently and with a month to ruin my memory, the mystery noise sounded a whole lot like the Barn Owl.]
Eventually, we moved back to where we had the woodpeckers last night as it was in the general direction of that single song. The woodpeckers made a brief appearance and we had a Red-headed or two as well. Prairie Warblers were everywhere as well.
After poking around for a good bit of time, Don decided to try another spot mentioned in the book, which was up and around the road. Just as we turned I spotted a Wood Duck high in a tree and another Red-headed Woodpecker came through. Down the new road, we had brief looks at a couple Bobwhite right at the side of the road.
We soon reached the spot and started to walk a bit. It was slightly more open here and Don decided to try the tape quickly. Almost immediately a single bird flew up onto a short branch at eye level maybe 50 feet in and sat there. The shape was incredibly distinct, looking like nothing else (I don’t remember the Botteri’s I saw in Arizona being this different). We all got excellent scope views. I snapped a couple pictures, but the lighting was awful so they are just short of being silhouettes.
With that success, we went to try the spot here for Swainson’s Warbler. Although it supposedly required wellies, the edges were dry enough that I was able to go around without testing my boot covers. No sign of any Swainson’s, but we had nice views of a Hooded Warbler (overhead!) and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. I made a pit stop on the way out and had a second Hooded buzz by. We heard a few Prothonotaries as well, but didn’t spend any time working on.
We took the long drive back to the VOA site without seeing much of anything. Heat waves were worse today. Again Don and I thought we heard a single Henslow’s sing once or twice but weren’t sure. Given that we could only really see a very short distance out, it was quite likely to be there and just not be visible. We did hear a Grasshopper Sparrow and there were several Common Nighthawks working overhead. [Update: I saw posts on Carolina Birds] from people who had them fairly easily later on.]
Eventually we gave up and started for Manteo, looking for lunch on the way. We found some sort of southern country buffet that wasn’t particularly good. It was all that was available when we wanted food, so it was fine anyway.
We continued on and made a stop at Alligator River NWR (Buffalo City Rd) on the way. We alternated between driving a short distance and walking. At the first stop, we heard a Kentucky Warbler (glad I had the one at Mt. Auburn the Sunday before to keep it fresh). I found another new dragonfly, a Great Blue Skimmer.
Further down, we got a nice Prothonotary Warbler, right out in the open. Great looks at this bird finally. And after that first one, they were getting in the way. At the far end of the road, we walked the side trail a bit. A Yellow-throated Warbler was singing. I got a brief, but good look at it as it crossed the trail and then kept going, but everyone else missed it.
We finally reached Manteo, and quickly checked in at the Duke of Dare. It apparently was dumpier than last time (and wasn’t all that great to begin with), but since we were basically just crashing it didn’t matter too much. For dinner, we went to Big Al’s (owned by the captain of the Country Girl). The food was ok, although portions were small and it was noisy. We decided that it wasn’t worth trying for Black Rail and that was it for the day.