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Duck, duck, goose: ForestHer Mattamuskeet Waterfowl ID Workshop goes swimmingly

Written by Falyn Owens

Photo by Claire Hageman

Did you know that, from a distance, a sleeping Tundra Swan can easily be mistaken for a stray trash bag? This is one of the many amusing and wonderful lessons I learned at ForestHer’s waterfowl ID workshop at Lake Mattamuskeet this past February.

We began our morning at the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center with a fast and loose introduction to waterfowl ID by wildlife conservation biologist, Kimberly Smith. The main takeaway? There are A LOT of waterfowl species to be seen at Lake Mattamuskeet and learning them all requires patience and practice!  Next, we headed to the lake to test our new ID skills, finding Northern Pintails and Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, American Coots, and Blue-Winged Teals, among other waterbirds. Canada Geese stole the show when well over a hundred swooped in over the trees to gracefully sail into the water, honking in chorus the entire way. I even caught a glimpse of a female Common Yellowthroat calling a frustrated “chet, chet, chet” as our gaggle of ForestHers disturbed her quiet morning in the bushes by the water.

After the lake we were gifted a private tour of the Mattamuskeet Lodge by NCWRC Commissioner Kelly Davis. Built in 1915 as the world’s largest pumping station, this historical landmark is now being renovated into an event space and ecotourism hub for Hyde County. It was fun putting our imaginations to the test envisioning what the finished space will look like, the forest of exposed wooden beams a blend of original and new displayed in front of us, whispering of forgotten stories and fresh potential. Following the tour of the lodge, we were off again as Commissioner Davis toured us around a waterfowl impoundment built to provide habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. It was an excellent example of what can be accomplished through the Wildlife Conservation Lands Program (WCLP). As we walked the perimeter, we tracked the evidence of a resident coyote and its recent meals of Mourning Dove and duck. Such is the circle of life!

We ended the day with a picnic lunch back at the visitor center, sharing stories of what we learned and saw - another wonderful ForestHer adventure in the books!

The old Lake Mattamuskeet pumping station that has now been converted into a lodge. Photo by Karen Plaster.


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