Sunday dawned clear, cold and VERY windy. I had been planning for a week to head to Lake Mattamuskeet to see if the swan migration was in progress, but as I listened to the wind howling, I almost decided not to go. Then I remembered that I had been a northern gal WAY longer than I’ve been a southern gal – so I grabbed my lunch, a thermos of hot coffee and a couple of jackets and away I went. The drive to Mattamuskeet is about 135 miles from my home.
35° with the winds coming off the lake and gusting to over 30 MPH took my breath away when I arrived, but once I got both jackets on, it wasn’t all that bad. For those of you that are not familiar with Lake Mattamuskeet, it is the largest natural lake in North Carolina. It is a shallow coastal lake, averaging 2-3 feet in depth, and stretches 18 miles long and 7 miles wide. The lake lies on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula. (source-Wikipedia) This refuge as well as surrounding public and private lands in eastern North Carolina are a major wintering site for waterfowl including ducks like northern pintail and green-wing teal, geese like Canada geese and Tundra swans.
The first birds that I encountered after entering the refuge were about ten egrets roosting in the trees and this Great Blue Heron. The heron was almost exactly where I took photo’s of one when Mr. B and I went to the refuge last January.I hadn’t gone too far on the Frying Pan Landing RD before I saw some Tundra Swans, along with some Canadian Geese and about a gazillion American Coots (I didn’t count them but it sure looked like a gazillion ;-)).I caught this Great Egret flying by and it was the first of many that I encountered.
I made my way to the visitor center/headquarters and talked with the volunteers that were manning it. They were from Charlotte and very informative. They travel in their RV to different areas to volunteer. They told me that many places like the Mattamuskeet visitor center could not be open if it weren’t for volunteers. They recommended the site volunteer.gov to see what may be available for folks that are interested in volunteering either near their home or while traveling.I followed their suggestion as to where to travel when leaving the center. I walked on a pleasant trail back to a photo blind located next to the water. Swans on this day were trying to stay out of the wind and were quite a way off. There was another gazillion coots here too. (grin)
I drove the Central Canal RD where the water surrounds the point of land and there were a lot of swans in the area but all were far off for my 300mm lens.
By this time, it was getting to be early afternoon and I knew that I would like to be home by dark, which unfortunately, comes WAY to early these days. I really wasn’t quite ready to leave so I took Wildlife DR to see what I could see. Below are some of the photo’s of that area.
I stopped at headquarters again to use the facilities on the way out. As we talked about what I had seen, they told me that the rangers have been seeing bobcats on that road but I wasn’t that lucky. I was pretty happy with what I did see and was very glad that I decided to brave the cold that day. The snow geese and many of the migrating ducks have not arrived yet so there will be at least one more trip this winter to see what I can see. It is definitely worth the drive.
I stopped one last time on my way out to take a photo of the building below. It is of a pumping plant that was built in 1914 to drain the lake and convert the lake to farmland for periods of time. This method was abandoned because it was expensive and impractical. In 1934, the US government purchased the land and the CCC converted the pumping plant into a hunting lodge that operated until 1974. In 1980 the lodge and 6.35 acres of land were transferred to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission for use “…as a public facility dedicated to the conservation of the natural and cultural resources of NC“. It is a nice looking building but I don’t think it is open to the public. It does make for a nice photo though, don’t you think?