On our recent weekend getaway to North Carolina, we had a free Friday, the weather was spectacular, and we set out on a wild goose chase.
Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge is, as the crow swan flies, is not that far from Harkers Island. But add in the weaving in and out that following along the Carolina coastline requires, it took us about two hours of uninspired driving to get there. Even though Kim and I enjoyed our car time together, we both hoped that our excursion would not prove to be a bust. We've had many an excursion that fell into that category.
And then...as we got closer...we saw them.
They were a long way off and well out of the reach of my zoom lens, but even with the naked eye they were unmistakable in the field...
Hundreds and hundreds of huge white birds. At first we thought they were snow geese, but as they took flight a few at a time...
...we could see they were swans. Tundra swans (we found out later), migrating from their northern homes to over-winter here.
I was pretty much giddy with delight! They were flying the direction we were headed, straight toward the nearby refuge!
Inside the refuge Kim, of course, did not want to "waste time" stopping at the Visitor's Center to pick up a map or get our bearings. So we just started aimlessly driving. The refuge surrounds Mattamuskee Lake, the largest natural lake in the state of North Carolina.
Although we could see a small flock of birds in the water, it was clear that the lake was too choppy even for the birds. And although the sun was shining, the wind was wicked and too chilly for this girl.
So we retraced our path away from lake and found some gravel roads along a canal that seemed to take us around the lake. We began seeing birds...a beautiful white egret...
...several small groups of coots...
...and many Canadian geese. Now I do love me a gorgeous Canada goose, but my appetite had been whetted for swans and we just HAD to find the swans.
Driving a little further, we both realized we'd hit the bird jackpot.
Thousands perhaps millions of birds...it was overwhelming!!!
Lots of swans, but a gazillion other ducks of dozens of species were there too.
Of course, they were never near the observation decks. But as we drove along...
...we could stop and get out and take photos.
And if we were quiet, we could get pretty close. Swans are noisy critters!
So many other species of ducks as well. I wish now I'd taken more photos of the ducks, but I was mesmerized by the swans.
The refuge had lots of other birds too...we saw several great blue herons.
Lots of turtles sunning themselves on the banks of the canal...
...and on the stumps.
A lovely mockingbird posed for me.
And we startled a beaver...
We could see his trails through the swamp.
But nothing could compare to the grace and beauty of the swans.
The tundra swans returning to...