Sunday, December 31, 2017

Another Year Gone - Welcome 2018!

The normal high for this time of year is in the low 50’s, which it was yesterday. Today we should get to 34. The first week in January we’ll have five days of low temps in the teens. There is a chance of snow next week. How’s that for a start of a new year? (I think we didn’t go far enough south?)


We are going to be spending January of 2018 at Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, where we were in December. Originally it was just a December position, but the couple that was with us in the beginning of December had to leave about mid-month, and they would have been here until the end of January, so we took that position. There will be another workamper coming January 2nd.

new year

Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas celebrations

We had a Christmas potluck and gift exchange at the refuge visitor center on December 21st. The kind of gift exchange where you can “steal” the gifts from each other. I ended up with a copper frying pan and Curt got a headlamp and a bag of pecans.  The shop guys boiled oysters for the potluck. They went over real well, but not my kind of food.

After Christmas we did a Hangouts video with our kids and granddaughters for Christmas gift opening. It’s fun to be able to “see” everyone!


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!

christmas swans(This picture was taken off of the internet, but is perfect as we’re at a wildlife refuge)


Saturday, December 23, 2017

A quick trip to the Outer Banks

We took a trip to Walmart and Home Depot the other day, which are approximately 70 miles away from Mattamuskeet, on the Outer Banks. This consisted of going to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge visitor center, Bodie Island visitor center and lighthouse (part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore), and the towns of Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk. We happened to get a gorgeous 60 degree day, and enjoyed a walk on the Atlantic Ocean beach.

You can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is approximately 13 miles long and ranges from 1/4 mile to 1 mile wide. The objectives are to provide nesting, resting and wintering habitat for migratory birds. They provide environmental education, wildlife observation, photography and fishing.

Bodie Island Lighthouse was built in 1872 and has its original 1st-order Fresnel lens. The current lighthouse is the third one that has stood in this vicinity. It stands 156 feet tall. It was renovated and was made climbable to the public in 2013, 219 steps, only open for climbing in the summer. There is also a boardwalk that goes to an observation deck of marshlands and birds.

Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk are very much tourist towns, with some of the businesses closed for the season. Most of the houses in Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills by the shore are built up on stilts. Kill Devil Hills is also the home of the Wright Brothers National Memorial, which we’ve been to before. We really liked it, but I’ve heard the visitor center is closed for renovations, and that is a lot of the experience and information in there.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Can you drain a lake?

For many years the idea of draining the shallow Lake Mattamuskeet intrigued farmers and developers. Patterned after similar projects in Holland, large scale drainage operations to convert the lake bottom to farmland began in 1914. The world’s largest pumping plant at the time was built, capable of moving 800,000 gallons of water per minute. Three different companies owned Lake Mattamuskeet during this venture. The first, New Holland Farms, Inc., incorporated the town of New Holland and began development. In 1918 the project was sold to North Carolina Farm Company which added a railroad before going bankrupt in 1923. In 1925 the New Holland Corporation took over the project and electricity was added. The farming operation was enlarged to 13,000 acres. Eventually, the scheme was abandoned as impractical and too expensive, but the lake had been drained three times already. In 1934 the United States government purchased the Lake Mattamuskeet holdings for $311,950 and established the Lake Mattamuskeet Migratory Bird Refuge.

You can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.

The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) helped transform the farming operation and pumping plant into a wildlife refuge and hunting/fishing lodge. The smokestack was modified into an observation tower. Lodge renovations were completed in 1937. In 1972 the Refuge was closed to goose hunting and the lodge closed in 1974. In 2007 ownership of the lodge was transferred to the State of North Carolina. Restorations are planned.

There is hunting of deer and waterfowl at certain times of year on the refuge, and also fishing and blue crabs in the lake and adjacent canals.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge Swan Days

The Swan Days Festival is an annual event celebrating the return of the Alaskan tundra swan to the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge held every December. There are nature exhibits, educational activities, food vendors, local arts and crafts, bird exhibits by Sylvan Heights Bird Park and birds of prey with Steve Hoddy of EarthQuest. There were speakers regarding the CCC Company 424 history, about the history of the lake and about trapping. There were four tram tours that went along areas of the lake where visitors can’t normally drive this time of year.  The tours started at 7:00 AM, and ran about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, with the last one starting at 2:20 PM.

There was a slight weather issue this year; it had rained about 3 inches by Saturday, and kept raining off and on all day. The trams still ran, a little different route than planned. Everyone that went on the tram tours said they saw a lot of birds and were glad they went, but they were cold. Tents were put up Friday, but the area was still wet and as people and vehicles moved around, it got pretty muddy. Some of the vendors canceled. The Sylvan Heights birds moved up on our patio and the birds of prey demonstration moved to the school parking lot. We had a lot of visitors in the Visitor Center, and good sales in the gift shop.

Pictured above is a Coscoroba swan, native of South America; a Nene, also known as a Hawaiian goose, which is the state bird of Hawaii; and a male and female wood duck.