Squirrels were jumping from stump to limb, in a zig-zag motion across the shallow swamp. Butterflies were feeding on flowers at the edge of water while an osprey soared above. It wasn't the typical location I normally spend time at photographing. Not because of the swamp, but because this swamp is located within the city limits. Three hours had past from when I first arrived. Waiting patiently, for an endangered species, an endangered species in a swamp with the city limits. Sounds strange doesn't it. Let me rewind a little; earlier in the week a good friend of mine was on his way home from work and stopped by this location, Neuseway Park in Kinston, North Carolina. The park sits sandwiched between the Neuse River and highways 11 & 70. The park contains 3 small ponds in which local people come to fish and enjoy nature. It's also a hot spot for wildlife of all walks of life. Everything from deer, rabbits & beaver to ducks, herons, & osprey. Like any other day, Tim slowly drove through, photographing the assortment of wildlife. But this day was unlike any other, while on the phone with Tim he says, " Whoa! what are those?." At first he thought they were ibis, a medium sized wading bird that is solid white. He sent me a photograph and I immediately knew he a discovered something special; wood storks. I was very excited due to the fact I had never photographed one or even witnessed one in the wild. Wood storks are an endangered species that are normally found in Florida, Georgia and some small parts of South Carolina. Right after work I drove straight to the park. Camera in hand I was ready to see & photograph these beautiful but strange birds. Unfortunately by the time I had arrived they had already left, roosting in the nearby swamp. For the next two days I made the small trip there looking for the flock of storks. From the sightings, they had been seen in the early morning and the late afternoon hours. On the third day, which was my day off from work, I decided I would go sit & wait for them. I arrived around 2pm and parked near where they were last spotted. I used my truck as a blind, since they were somewhat use to seeing cars. One hour pasted, nothing; then the second hour pasted and there was still no signs of the storks. A couple minutes before 5pm, I looked up and there soaring towards my direction, a wood stork. Large white bird,
black wing tips, featherless head and a wing span up to six feet across. Instantly I was filled with excitement. I watched as the first one came in and then a another, and another, and another. They were landing in a tree no more than twenty yards from me, just as I had hoped. They were in a hard place to photograph due to the heavy vegetation. I was able to manually focus and capture a few photographs before Tim arrived. Once he pulled up beside my truck, it allowed me to get out and photograph from a different perspective. After a few moments the birds decided to leave and fly to another area of the swamp. They all seemed to be young, once they become full grown they will not have feathers on their heads.
It was like photographing the Snowy Owl on the outer banks. A rare bird in our area so close to home, made it even more special. Even though I only took just a few photographs it made the three hour wait well worth it. Wood Storks are endangered due to mostly loss of habitat. This was the first time that they have ever been reported/seen/photographed in Lenoir County. You don't have to visit Yellowstone, Alaska or Africa to photograph beautiful animals. You never know what you can find in your own backyard or even within the city limits.
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