Lake Mattamuskeet

Winter trip to see what waterfowl were around the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. We went on this trip much later than we have in the past – mid-January versus our usual mid-December trip.

We found information online (on the Fish & Wildlife website) that the main road would be closed until 1 pm, pretty much every winter Saturday and Sunday, for waterfowl hunts. This was news to me! So we left a little later than normally and arrived at the refuge around 12:30 pm. It was still a 3.5 hour drive from North Topsail Island – a tedious drive but worth it, and one I definitely wanted to do since we did not get to go last winter.

Every visit presents a different assemblage of waterfowl, and it is really neat to see how the numbers and species change year-to-year. This year – maybe because it was late in the winter – there seemed to be a serious dearth of ducks. Especially on the main lake bisected by the Central Road – there were literally no ducks on the water except for a few scattered by the banks here and there. No huge swarms of tundra swans or snow geese, no giant rafts of ruddy ducks. So we spent most of the day birding back behind the Wildlife Drive area, which is where we saw the vast majority of species.

We saw 44 species of birds, as well as a nutria – the bane of the lake.

Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal
Canvasback
Redhead
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Bonaparte’s Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Carolina Chickadee
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark

Back in the waters contained within the Wildlife Drive were huge rafts of Northern Shovelers and Pin-tailed Duck. Scattered throughout those were many Canada Goose and some Tundra Swan. Also present in more numbers than I have seen before were American Black Ducks and American Wigeons. I only saw one male from Blue-winged Teal and Green-winged Teal.

All in all, a very short trip due to the long ride and time constraints, but very satisfying. If we had had more time and more daytime light, I would have loved to gone over to Ocracoke/Pea Island NWR to try and see some of those tantalizing Snowy Owls. I had been getting Rare Bird Alerts the whole month of December when I was in Thailand. Who knows when I will get to see this lifer!

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