North Carolina county #8

Pettigrew State Park

Yesterday I got back from an amazing five days of birding.  The Carolina Bird Club has three meetings per year, in strategic locations for good birding.  This winter, leaders led groups to areas around the Outer Banks, a fantastic place to bird in January.  I went to the meeting and took the opportunity to cover several surrounding counties on my own before and after the planned group trips.  In all, I covered eight counties, and it will probably take me a while to catch up on my posts as a result.

On the long drive out to the Outer Banks, I stopped at Pettigrew State Park in Washington County.  Pettigrew State Park runs along the state’s second largest natural lake – Lake Phelps.

The drive there was something of an adventure.  I had read on the website that I should not use GPS to find it as it would take me on dirt roads – instead there was an easy route from the highway with signs.  So I planned my Google maps route accordingly and set off.  However, at some point when I stopped for gas or went a slightly different way, the route reset to what GPS thought it should be.  I ended up deep in farmland driving alongside crops in a muddy dirt road.  I felt like I was trespassing and after several miles of this, was very happy to find pavement again.

The edge of the lake is marshy, so I was mildly disappointed to find that the path mostly ran 50 yards or so from the edge, and that you could not see the lake for much of the walk.

Occasionally, there were breaks in the woods alongside the lake and you could see it more clearly.  Sometimes there was a bench there and they could be nice spots to take a rest or a photo.


I had checked the weather for this trip, and the only day that was a concern was this day – and it only showed a chance of showers in the morning.  It was already after noon by the time I arrived so I figured I was safe.  I was hoping to reach Moccasin Overlook, which according to the website offered excellent views of the lake.  This was somewhat ambitious since I was carrying all my camera gear and backpack and it was 2.8 miles each way, but I figured I had nothing else to do that day.

About 2 miles into the walk, the wind really picked up and rain came.  I had to quickly hide under some trees while I stuffed my camera into my backpack and covered the backpack with a rain cover.  It was a warm day so I was only wearing my tee-shirt, but the rain was cold and I got soaked.  I almost turned back but decided to push on to the overlook.

Pileated Woodpecker

In the end, it turned out to be worth it. The rain let up and I got that nice photo of the lake in the beginning of this post.  I saw several Blue-headed Vireos on the path, and the lake had three life birds for me!  I was most excited about the Tundra Swan at first – not knowing that the coming days would have me watching hundreds of them.  But the photos also revealed Common Mergansers and a Canvasback.  I knew the mergansers were a life bird, but I wasn’t sure if they were Red-breasted or Common until I got back and reviewed the photos.  The Canvasback I found hiding in the flock in the photo.  Most of these photos are not very nice looking – just good enough for ID, but they are in the ebird checklist along with anything else I took.

I had to hustle back to make it before the park closed, but I was able to tally 35 species for the day, which is excellent for me.

ebird checklist

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