North Carolina county #60

Holly Shelter Game Land

After a fantastic morning at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, I headed over to Pender County to explore the Holly Shelter Game Land.  This is a huge area – listed as 48,795 acres that is open for hunting half the year and hiking the other half.  Actually the best time to go for birding seems to be during hunting season, but on the two days a week no hunting is allowed, because during those times the 90+ miles of roads are open for cars, whereas right now they are not.

So I parked at the gate ready to walk in but unfortunately the rain caught up with me.  I sat in the car for 45 minutes or so until it let up enough for me to risk heading in.

I have been in terrain exactly like this a half-dozen times this year, and every time it is advertised as a good spot to find Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow, both of which I need for my life list.  The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is an endangered species only found in the Southeast in areas like this.

Unfortunately, just like every other time, I was unable to find either species.  It should be easy, since the wildlife management folks clearly mark nesting sites of the woodpecker to help them check on them and to keep people away.But although I have found plenty of those sites, none of them show activity.  I think I have just not been patient or persistent enough, and this time was no exception.  The rain kept coming and going while I was there and I wasn’t able to stay long because of it.  I thought I got audio of a Bachman’s Sparrow, but when I checked it at home I had second thoughts.

For a short while I watched a long Black Snake trying to get something in a hole.  And I caught a glimpse of a Northern Flicker and heard some Brown-headed Nuthatches along with a few other species.  I got a blurry snapshot of a Great-crested Flycatcher, the only real excitement while I was there.  I actually had one of these in my front yard once and when I find them I always think back to that excitement.

Not much of a photo!  Well, I got out of there only a little wet.  I met an older gentlemen on his way into the Game Lands with a camera.  He said he was only going in about 15 minutes, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him not to bother.  We chatted for a bit before I said my goodbyes and headed to my final county for the trip.

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