Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Alligator River NWR

Alligator River NWR is one of the best places to see pocosin habitat, and the refuge benefits an entire ecological community, but the "big three" species of charismatic megafauna to be found there are red wolves, black bears, and the namesake American alligators. I had no expectation of seeing wolves on our recent (and very brief) visit, and in any case I was fortunate enough to have seen a red wolf years ago during an early-morning foray to Cades Cove during the reds' tenure at Great Smoky Mountains NP. But I did have hopes of giving Jessa her first look at black bears in the wild, and the bears did not disappoint us. (All bear photos in this post are Jessa's, but I took some of the others, and acted as spotter while she was photographing the bears.)

Our first several bears were spotted on the narrow margins between the refuge's gravel roads and the dense pocosin woodlands, and while a couple were semi-cooperative, our typical view was of a bear ambling away from us along the road until it decided to veer off into the bush. Jessa was surprised, and I am still impressed despite having seen it before, how quickly and easily a few hundred pounds of black bear can simply vanish.

Our most cooperative subject was the smaller of a pair foraging out in the open, a couple hundred yards from the nearest woods. 

The two of them took off running soon after we found them, with the larger bear seeking cover in the woods, but "our" bear stopped short and resumed foraging, pausing occasionally to scan the surroundings, or moving from place to place. 

It eventually took to the water for a quick bath, of which we caught the tail end, so to speak.

A car stopped anywhere on the wildlife drive eventually attracts others, so we took our leave when the crowd showed up, bidding our bear a fond farewell.

Alligators are near the northern edge of their range here (though that will likely change with continued climatic warming), and not especially numerous compared to our stomping grounds in southern Louisiana, but we saw and photographed a couple of puppy gators, the first of which had a passenger.

The next gator was sans grenouille, but photogenic in its own right.

The other herps we saw in abundance were eastern chicken turtles, Deirochelys reticularia reticularia. As majestic as the gators, just on a smaller scale.

We'll leave you with a few flora and habitat pictures from ARNWR, but there will be birds in an upcoming post.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Daylight comes to Carolina

Sunrise from the dunes at Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Photos by Jessa.