Saturday, May 28, 2016

the Great (not so) Dismal Swamp

Let's face it, last year's trip to North Carolina didn't go so well.  I was completely incapacitated by seasickness on the pelagic trip and was really left wondering what might have been had I actually been able to fully participate in the trip.  Though I did get a hot tip on a seaside sparrow, still the only one I've ever seen.

So a return was in order.  Hattaras isn't an easy place to get to, last year we drove all the way which was probably a mistake.  This year flying to Norfolk cut the drive from 15 hours down to 3.  And between Norfolk and Cape Hattaras lies the Great Dismal Swamp, a place I'd never visited.  It held no less than the most Prothonotary Warblers I've ever seen in my life.

 Their songs and chip notes rang out more or less continuously during the walk on an unseasonably cool and crisp afternoon.  It was a really nice cross section of southern birds.  Hooded's were also fairly conspicuous along the trail's edge.

I haven't managed a Yellow-billed Cuckoo yet this year in Berrien, but in this Virginian swamp they were easy to hear and see.
As were Carolina Chickadees, a bird I wasn't expecting until their more minor key vocalizations gave them away as they led little mixed flocks of wrens, titmice, and downies.
It definitely has less warm wash on the flanks.  I wasn't really appreciating the difference that Sibley shows with regards to the white cheek patch being grayer posteriorly or a more sharply demarcated bib.

Birds weren't the only things active.  The place was full of Tiger Swallowtails and Eastern Comma butterflies.
 And while the Comma can also be found fairly easily in Berrien, this next creature, a female Spangled Skimmer, would be a pretty solid find here.

But it was a different warbler that draws birders here, another southerner with a smooth down-slurred song.  And even if its content sounds phonetically like "Ooh, ooh, stepped in Poo," the somewhat long rangy Swainson's Warbler loses none of his appeal.
 It was a lifer.

Even on the way out it was hard to leave with a Summer Tanager building a nest directly over the trail.

The name of the trail?  Somewhat inauspiciously, the Washington Ditch.
 Named after and surveyed by our first President, George Washington.

Want another study in contrasts?  George Washington got a ditch named after him.  Our 41st President?
The USS George HW Bush, as viewed in dock at Norfolk from the air on the way in.

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