It felt good to be back here at False Cape State Park. I'd hiked in the day before (April 7) and slept well in my new tent - and had pancakes for breakfast! Now, it was time to go for a day hike and look for birds. My friend Carlton and I both like to watch birds, although he is better at identification than I am - so I try to learn from him. We ended up recording something like 50 species that Saturday.
Our route was south towards North Carolina, and then a "box" shape out to the beach and back around, a total of about 11 miles. The purple arrow shows the location of the beautiful South Inlet. There is an observation platform there, and we saw a couple of bald eagles and a northern harrier (marsh hawk) while we were there.
Here is Carlton snapping a photo of the harrier:
As we hiked along, we watched and listened constantly. Birds were out all over the place. One of the prettiest was this prairie warbler, which was in the live oaks over our tents, keeping us entertained with his merry song (photo by Carlton):
The route we hiked went through maritime forests, dunes, and the beach itself:
After hiking, we stopped at the little store at the park and bought ice cream and Gator Aid. Ice cream while backpacking is an amazing luxury, and hit the spot. Then, I took a little snooze back at the tent to rejuvenate myself for more hiking in the evening.
After my delicious - not kidding here, it really was - dinner of lentils, rice, and Indian spice,
we decided to go out again and see what birds we could see and hear. We ended up hiking another 3.5 miles, and saw and heard plenty. The coolest sight was a pair of red-tailed hawks sharing an unfortunate creature as a meal, and a flock of about 30 glossy ibis flying in for the night. The moon was nearly full,
and the fading light of the day illuminated the marshes as we walked along:
As the light faded entirely, we began to hear the sounds of the night - a pair of great horned owls at first. We headed that way, and suddenly, we heard the faint cry of a whip-poor-will and then of a chuck-will's-widow. We walked along a path in the woods until we could hear the chuck-will's-widow better. The moon was so bright that we didn't need headlights at all. Suddenly, a large group of coyotes started howling and making a loud ruckus. We hiked back to camp, as a screech owl joined into the chorus. At camp, I fell asleep listening to the whip-poor-will call. I'd not heard one, or a chuck-will's-widow, in over a decade, so it was a thrill. In the middle of the night, I awoke to coyotes howling again, and at the dawn, I awoke to the call of a whip-poor-will. It was wonderful.
Carlton packed up and was on the trail by 7:00 Sunday morning, but I took my time, enjoyed breakfast, and got hiking about 9:00. I would have liked to go to church on this Palm Sunday, but decided that I was in God's Cathedral all weekend. It was an uneventful hike out, although I did get close to a turkey vulture, and got to see turtles sunning themselves on the warmest day of the three by far.
I had a great time camping out, hiking, and exploring for wildlife. I hope to get back here again in the fall or next spring.
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