A Lovely Morning at Fort Macon – Wildlife Encounters

I visit Fort Macon State Park frequently. For quite a while it was a wonderful location for song bird photography. For reasons I don’t know birding in this park has been disappointing the last couple of years. Still I keep returning for long walks on the Elliot Couse Nature Trail, beach photography and the image the various Live Oak trees found along the trail.

My most recent visit was quite enjoyable, to say the least. I found Black-crowned Night Herons and a Green Heron in my traditional birding spot. That alone is enough to make for a good morning. But wait, as they say in TV infomercials, there’s more! I decided to hike the wooded side of the Elliot Couse Nature Trail. Along the trail there are a few views of the adjacent wetlands. I stopped at one of those spots and decided to make a landscape photo of the part of the view. I composed my shot, fired the shutter, then gazed out on the area again. Much to my surprise and delight I noticed a handsome Whitetail Deer buck walking out onto the tidal flats!

The deer was preceding quite cautiously. At first I though he was aware of my presence. After a bit of observation I noticed that his concern seemed to be something further out on the marsh. Something out of my view. After a little time and, of course, a few photographs, he turned his head towards me. I’ve no doubt that he became aware of me at that moment. Whatever was bothering him out on the wetlands, combined with my presence was obviously a bit too much for him. He slowly turned around and meandered calmly back in the direction from which he had come.

As the buck retreated back towards the safety of the brush and the maritime forest, I continued to track him. Enjoying the sight of him and taking an occasional photograph as he left. To my surprise, as he entered a brushy area, I discovered there was a second buck that had remained concealed through the entire encounter. While I never got a clear shot of the pair, I was able to get a shot of the two deer peaking out of the brush at in my direction.

It is these kinds of experiences that motivate nature photographers, amateur and pro, to get out of bed and explore the outdoors on their days off. Chance encounters like this may be rare, but they do happen. If you never get out there it will never happen for you. In many ways I find these kinds of unexpected meetings more enjoyable than those involving tracking, researching and setting up a blind to get photos of a particular subject. There’s something special, almost magical about these chance encounters.

Below you will find some of the images I made that morning. Some are available for purchase at my http://bob-decker.pixels.com site. Others will likely be added soon. You can find me on Instagram at https://instagram.com/bobdeckerphotography. Follow me on Facebook at https://facebook.com/carolinafootprints. As always your thoughts and comments are appreciated. Perhaps you can share a similar experience you’ve had.

The Elliot Couse Nature Trail at Fort Macon State Park provides a few clear views of the adjacent wetlands. An important environment, such areas improve local water quality and serve as nurseries for aquatic life. Such areas may flood at high tide, uncovering during the low tide.
As I approached an area along the Yarpon Loop Trail that can be good for observing birds, several Black Crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) to to wing and perched in nearby trees. These handsome birds can be quite camera shy. I always consider it a treat when I’m able to capture an image of one. Their gray and black plummage only serves to accent their startling red eyes. The Yarrows Loop Trail is located in Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. It is one of three trails found in the park and is the shortest. Fort Macon is one of several local attractions found on the Crystal Coast.
A Green Heron, Butorides virescens, is perched in a tree along the Yupon Loop trail at Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Unlike other Herons, these birds are relatively short and stocky.
A whitetail deer buck explores the marsh in Fort Macon State Park at Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. I was making a landscape image when this lovely buck meandered into my view. He spent a good deal of time, having become aware of my presence, trying to decide whether to flee or move ahead. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the trails, forest and beach at this park but this is the first time I’ve observed a deer there. It was certainly a treat.
A whitetail deer buck stands in the wetlands on Bogue Banks, a barrier island along the North Carolina coast. The view is from the Elliot Couse Nature trail in Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, NC.
Panoramic presentation of a buck whitetail deer on the marsh at Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.
The heads of two whitetail deer bucks can be seen through the brush in the wetlands at Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. In a short time the rut will be on and these friends may well be sparring over the attentions of a doe.
This lovely Lie Oak tree is found along the Elliot Couse Nature trail in Fort Macon State Park at Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. The long, low limb offers an inviting seat to tired hikers, or a spot for an impromptu portrait. When European explorers and settlers first reached the shores of North Carolina most of the barrier islands were covered in maritime forests largely consisting of live oaks and other hearty species. Live oaks have become synonymous with the Southeastern United States.

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  1. Katrina August 24, 2021 at 6:13 am #

    Those are some beautiful photographs, Bob. Just from my attempts to get reference photos, I know how difficult it can be to get an animal to pose just right.

  2. Maryse Jansen September 11, 2021 at 1:16 am #

    I recognize from your story here how a familiar trail is still full of surprises, every time you visit! That’s the beauty of nature and what I enjoy so much about photographing nature and wildlife.

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