Day 6

Today would be another try for the Swainson’s and then a trek back to Norfolk and flights home.

We were out again early. This time McDonald’s was open and close to prepared. We headed for Alligator River, making a brief stop at the Bear Road spot we had tried the other day without anything.

We went to the Superspot. As we passed the marsh, there were some odd calls but nothing we really made note of. Further on, I spotted a Barred Owl perched on the side of the road. We all got excellent views. For some reason, I didn’t feel like dealing with the camera right then and am now kicking myself.

We soon reached the spot where we had been the other day. We parked and began to walk up the road. Pretty quickly we thought we heard something and were soon fairly sure that it was a singing Swainson’s. Finding a decent viewpoint, we stopped and Don played the tape. The bird came right in! We watched it as it moved from a pile of branches onto the ground and stayed more or less in sight for about a minute. I went for the camera pretty quickly, but had forgotten to check the settings, so I was still set on the more distant focus (which changed the close focus point to well over 20 feet). I got some nice blurry habitat photos but no bird (I expected at least a blurry bird in there, but haven’t been able to find it).

I did get a shot of a Five-lined Skink at least:


With that great success and plenty of time, we decided to stop and look for Yellow-throated Warbler on the way out and then head back to Bodie Light and see if there was anything different around. As we passed the marsh, Don pulled the most difficult sighting I’ve ever seen by someone driving when he spotted a King Rail! We were able to stop and back up and all got very good looks at it for a few seconds before it finally disappeared.

On the main road, we stopped at the pines where the warblers were likely. With a good bit of effort we heard one repeatedly and eventually got some distant views. Not great, but everyone did see a bird this time.

This Harlequin Darner also posed quickly:

Harlequin Darner

We continued on to the coast, stopping briefly for gas for the first time of the trip. At Bodie Light, we had a similar assortment of sandpipers and herons. They were closer in and we were able to get good looks at Short-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, and Least Sandpiper. A Common Yellowthroat posed extremely nicely at the top of a small tree. I attempted a couple lighthouse shots, but didn’t have a small enough lens to get more than half at once. There were also numerous Seaside Dragonlets flying around.

Bodie Light

Common Yellowthroat

Short-billed Dowitcher

While waiting for people at a bathroom/giftshop break at the car, a Fish Crow made an appearance. And then it was off north. We took a more coastal route for a while, which was loaded with traffic and nothing much. Eventually we stopped for lunch at some tourist-trap looking restaurant just before the Virginia border. The food was pretty good. On our way out, we started talking to some people outside selling jewelry. They told us about the sparrow nests right there and also gave us a tip for cheaper gas back in Norfolk.

We made it back to the airport fairly easily (we got lost at the same spot we did on the way down). The rental car return was out in the middle of a parking lot, it didn’t look like fun for the staff and was a fairly long walk to the terminal.

Inside, we said our goodbyes and headed to the gates. The flight left right on time and went smoothly. I was able to see a few terns as we made our approach, but couldn’t identify any for sure. There was a little delay getting off the plane (another down the stairs, walk outside, back up) but that meant we didn’t have as long to wait for bags.

My parents were waiting at the baggage claim and offered to take Don to his car at Wonderland. That turned out to be a worthwhile detour, as on our way back to the Pike an American Kestrel flew by, which was one of the big misses of the trip.

Back home before dinner, glad I had the next day off.