North Carolina county #12 Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge
In the far northeastern corner of North Carolina is Currituck County. After the Carolina Bird Club meeting was over, I stayed an extra day at the hotel to make a side trip up there to Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge. I actually had to drive up into Virginia and back down again in order to get there because there is no connection to it from the southern part of the Outer Banks.
Unfortunately (or fortunately if you are a bird), much of the southern part of the island is closed off at this time of the year. I was able to drive about halfway down the island, where you can see waterways and small ponds and lots of marshy grasses interspersed with the occasional tree. There was also a very short path near the entrance which went around a pond that I walked. The refuge had a selection of waterfowl such as Gadwall, a few Hooded Mergansers, and some Ruddy Ducks.
There were a few groups of White Ibises and lots of Great Egrets. At one point I counted 8 Great Egrets in a single viewing.
There were several areas that seemed great for sparrows and I was hoping for something rare, but I was only able to spot some White-throated, Song, and Swamp Sparrows. However, the absolute highlight of the trip was a Belted Kingfisher that sat and posed for me on a tree in the sunlight. I think these birds are great but I’ve never been able to get a closeup shot of one before.
I got a lot of photos of that guy and it is hard to choose which is the best. Overall, a good trip, but I would recommend visiting at a time when all the trails are open. Currently the website says all trails will reopen on March 15th.