Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kayaking at Harris Lake

The last time I birded the Northeast arm of Harris Lake, I had to bush-wack 3 miles.  That's a little too much effort for my preferences, so this time I kayaked.  My parents and I put in at the New Hill- Holleman Road bridge, and paddled to where the creeks merge with the lake in a swampy, bird-filled maze.  The first big find of the day was a Spotted Sandpiper, only my second this year.  It was bobbing up and down as it negotiated the shoreline.  As I was paddling along a wooded cove, I heard the "TEACH-er TEACH-er TEACH-er" call of the Ovenbird, a small woodland warbler that looks more like a thrush.  I realized that it was my 250th bird on my life list, and was elated.

As we neared the lake's end, the water grew shallow and the bird life became more abundant.  Bald Eagles, almost guaranteed birds at Harris Lake, were chasing the flocks of coots.  I spotted my first Blue-winged Teal in Wake County.  I noticed a Tringa shorebird on the mudflats, and held my camera up to get a better look - a Lesser Yellowlegs, one of several present.  It was associating with a Greater Yellowlegs and a flock of Wilson's Snipe.  I paddled around a bend and flushed another group of snipes, and saw my first Solitary Sandpiper - another relative of the Yellowlegs.  Caspian Terns were still present, though in lower numbers than last weekend.  A Tree Swallow flew by, as did more snipes and Solitary Sandpipers.  As we were paddling back, I spotted a Common Loon, the first one I've seen in breeding plumage.  It's amazing to see their transformation from a drab gray bird to a striking, heavily patterned beauty.  Harris Lake is what I like to call the "Mattamuskeet of Wake County" because of it's diversity of bird life (and numbers of coots), and is one of my favorite places to bird. Here are some photos from today:

 Lesser Yellowlegs feeding
A lesser and greater yellowlegs, for comparison.  The Lesser is on the right.

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