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The Tundras of North Carolina

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The Tundras of North Carolina
The tundra swan visit me every year in the fields near my house but normally never in the field right behind my house. So this year I asked permission from the father-in-law to put a dyke in the ditch to flood the field out some. With the dry year the field sat with no water for a couple months, but we have finally had enough rain to flood the field out and the tundras have been enjoying it the last few days. They are only about 300-350 yards behind my back window and are a joy to watch and listen to. Photos are with my phone through the binoculars.







Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Thats pretty cool!
Did you pull a swan permit this year?


Carl
Mobile, AL
DHBP Member since 1998

"Life is too short to drink bad beer."
Disclaimer: This post and/or report is not a substantiation of or reflection on the true accuracy of the present surveying methods. It is only a report on or comment concerning local observation and/or results. Your results and observation may vary based on your location, local water conditions, food supply, weather conditions and migratory patterns "
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
That is really cool. How easy is it to pull a swan permit?
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
I did not pull one this year. I had one last year but we had issues with my house which required us to move out for almost a year and in the process misplace the permit and didn't find it until after season was out.



Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Dani, there are pretty easy to get, I know a lot of people that get them about 75% of the time. I have applied 3 times and got one 2/3. It also goes by preference points where if you don't draw this year then you have a better chance next year but can be confusing when dealing with party's. This year they issued 4,895

Link to the preference point system:
https://www.ncwildlife.org/...FCN4AnpER9MzDA%3d%3d



Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
 
You can thank Bob Hester, and many others from NC, and other states.

Petitions were given and sent out. Lots of waterfowlers responded, and the Tundra Swan season was opened in the Atlantic Flyway. States such as PA declined, as did others.

They are a grand bird and your area is pretty much Tundra Swan central this time of year.

Over the years I have had permits, but never touched the trigger. Thought I could do it, but cannot, so no longer apply.


Looks as if yer gonna get some moisture soon, and a taste of winter.

Enjoy the show while the birds are still there.


Best regards
Vince











"Art does not reproduce what is visible - but makes things visible." ~ Paul Klee, artist, 1920
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
I studied them around Mattamuskeet NWR in 1983-85. Spent many nights in Swan Quarter. Ben where do you live?

Vince, you are correct with Bob Hester's influence but there was also broader interest. I should dig out some old slides to tell that story.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Vince,
I enjoy having them around every year, although this year they came late with the mild winter we had early.

I am ready for the moisture to come. Have all the gear ready for hunting tomorrow since the coast guard base will shut down and then hopefully on Saturday after the snow I will track some rabbits.



Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Brad,
I am north of lake Mattamuskeet near Elizabeth City.

Please find those slides, would be very cool to see some history that my generation does not know.



Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Brad,

You were there the years that I hunted down there. Lots of Tundra Swans and Pintails.

Western PA has a major Tundra Swan migration corridor, and I've watched them since the 1950's.

Broader interest for sure. Have also had permits for states out west.


When I saw and heard Trumpeter Swans for the first time. I dropped to my knees...

Nothin' like being where the birds are, no matter how far the drive.











"Art does not reproduce what is visible - but makes things visible." ~ Paul Klee, artist, 1920
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
First of all, Benjamin, it is good to hear that you finally got some much needed moisture.

Seeing those Tundra swans and then knowing that all of this action was so close to your home makes you and your family the lucky ones. What would an adult male weigh? Their necks sure look to be pretty long.

Loved hearing how you took those pictures. Pretty darn cool.
Allan
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Vince, they are a very strongly flavored bird, not greasy/fishy, but best grill and served medium rare. The other approach I have tried is to roll them in int 1" cubes in Italiani bread crumbs, chill, and then brown them in peanut oil to serve with doctored 'Frattelli Italian sauce and pecorino Romano
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RL,

Thanks, that is what I have been told by friends that did shoot them. The young grey birds I'm told taste better.

The breast and the rest has gotta be a whole lotta muscle, to get a bird that size in the air, and keep it there for long flights. Not to mention their long lifespan.

I like your recipe, especially the pecorino Romano. My favorite Italian cheese. Smile



Ben is indeed blessed to have the birds so close. His work paid off.



Best regards
Vince











"Art does not reproduce what is visible - but makes things visible." ~ Paul Klee, artist, 1920
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Well haven't really received any snow yet but went out this morning and passed on a bunch of mallards landing in the decoys waiting for some pintails that I saw and got this nice sprig. Taken with a 20 gauge #4 2 3/4" shells

And I am very fortunate to live here where the great swan winters. As far as size and weight I'm not really sure, I do know the one I have shot when I carried out by his feet his bill was touching the ground.





Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.

Last edited by:

benp: Jan 21, 2022, 9:15 AM
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
OkIn the late 1990,s I wintered in Kitty Hawk. I applied for a swan permit but did not get one. I still have some swan decoys I made for the hunt. They make a pretty good confidence decoy. Here's a picture of one.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Hi Ben,
Congratulations on that gorgeous bull sprig. There is no doubt about it, when you decided to let the mallards pass for an opportunity at a pintail. Way to go! That is a proud hunting moment especially when you factor in your 20 guage 2 3/4" shell. Bravo!
Allan

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Al Hansen: Jan 21, 2022, 2:52 PM
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Bob,
That's a fine looking swan decoy. I agree on the confidence decoy, whenever I hunt the river I either have swan or Canada geese decoys near the widgeon decoys.



Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Yes Al,
The 20 has proven itself many times. I have plenty of buddies that shoot the 3.5" magnums and have the bruises to prove it, but other than goose or diver hunting they seldom outperform to 20.

This is where the sprig currently sits, ready for the wire wheel to get the fat off and a good washing then onto a mount. Just undecided on what pose I'll do.






Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
 

The first swan season in NC was in 1984. My MS project was to study swans in and around Mattamuskeet NWR. I had access to the entire refuge and boy there were a lot of swans and pintails on the refuge. There was also a lot of lead poisoning from the years of hunting with lead shot. For those of you who don't know the history of Mattuskeet, its the largest natural lake in North Carolina. It was historically a tremendous goose and duck hunting area with a unique history. Around the turn of the century (1900) speculators attempted to drain and farm the lake. They built a big pumping plant and miles of drainage canal. The soils are all peat and the bottom of the lake was below sea level so they pumped and pumped but could never keep it dry enough to farm. Eventually they sold it to the FWS as a refuge. The old pumping plant was turned into a lodge. The chimney had an observation platform built on top and a spiral staircase constructed inside. I've heard stories that it was an exclusive lodge in its day. Canada goose hunting was fabulous according to the history books. But the hunting pressure and change in agriculture further north favored geese that didn't fly to Mattuskeet and Canada goose hunting almost disappeared. But it remained and likely still is a great area for ducks and swans. There was a lot of land clearing going on in the 1970s and 1980s. Huge farms were being carved out of the swamplands all around coastal NC. These were huge industrial farms like 10,000 acres or larger, they just bulldozed the forest into windrows and dug drainage ditches every 100 yards.. Soybeans and winter wheat were the primary crops on the peat over sand soils of these big farms. Sometime in the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s the swans began to feed on these crops and the farmers complained about damage to winter wheat. My study was designed to look at what the swans were eating, when they were eating it and how their body conditions changed over winter. I'll try to get some of my old slides digitized and show you what things were like. I can tell you that since the swans had not been legally hunted since 1918 they decoyed easily. What I also thought was interested is that every grandma in Swanquarter would tell me about their recipe for swan. They all said the gray ones were better table fare, but none of them said they were any stronger tasting than Canade geese. The adults migrate to NC from as far away as the North Slope of Alaska so I can imagine that after a few trips they would be pretty tough once cooked. I have shot and eaten a few others in the western states and I thought they were tasty but there was a lot of meat on them.

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Brad Bortner: Jan 24, 2022, 9:25 AM
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Brad, the story of Mattamuskeet and the overall New Holland venture is truly amazing. Just driving 5 miles along Outfall Canal I am always impressed with the magnitude of that engineering project especially knowing that eventually the project was a flop/failure. The scars that were left on the landscape in other portions of Hyde County are also quite impressive. There are places there where I cannot understand why the land was ditched and apparently drained at one time, although now these areas are full of water with not much food of any type for wintering waterfowl. The good news is that hunting these abandoned areas can feel like you are at the end of the earth--although not a good place to hunt solo and have some kind of emergency. I wonder how much better the waterfowl hunting would be if these areas had been left as natural marshland. Thanks for your insight into the more recent history of that area.
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Brad, thanks for that history. I didn't know they tried to drain that lake but really doesn't surprise me. There is a group of people here that have put a history book together of families for the area and one of the things in there was talking about the farmers that owned sections of the dismal swamp and how they said if they could ever drain it then it would have the potential for excellent farm land. Well a few years later they figured out how to drain it and now the area is called the desert for how expansive the area of nothingness is. Even the windrows are gone now which has caused a decline in the quail population.

I have been to a couple of farms down in Morehead City and it is something seeing square mile fields. I think one of those farms was bigger than 40,000 acres.

Around here the swan seem to stay more in the corn and bean stubble while the snow geese are the problems in the winter wheat. We don't have as many snow geese migrate here as we did even 10 years ago, which the farmers seem happy about.



Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
David,
I have been around Belhaven and the Alligator River and always wondered why swamps in those area and all around lake Mattamuskeet had canals running through them. Always though who would take the time and equipment to go in there and run a ditch through a swamp. Never occurred to me that it was an effort to drain those swamps.



Teach someone to love something, and they will protect it. -Will Primos
Benjamin Pendleton
Northeast N.C.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
 
Ben,

Just a suggestion about mounting yer drake Pintail. Ya got a Dandy of a Sprig there.

If ya plan on using it for reference for decoy carving. A standing pose has helped me for many years. In fact once I began to carve, the birds I did have mounted are all standing. As long as the form and feather placement are where they should be. The bird will serve ya well, and be more than just a memory. It will impact yer carving and painting style up close and personal.


my 2 cents











"Art does not reproduce what is visible - but makes things visible." ~ Paul Klee, artist, 1920
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
Brad

I worked at Mattamuskeet NWR in 1980 for a year. Sorry I missed you. Steve Frick and Kelly Nagle Davis are good friends of mine to this day. Not sure if Steve was still the refuge manager when you were there but I know Kelly was the biologist.

My Mother is from New Holland and still owns her family farm. Hyde County is an interesting place. As everywhere it has changed a lot since the 80's. The lake's water quality has declined drastically and the lake has lost all SAV's. This has changed the ducks and swan's wintering patterns a great deal. There are still a lot of birds in the area but they have changed distribution.

The swan used to hit the lake upon arrival in the fall and eat the SAV hard. Then as they depleted that they would shift to fields. Now they hit the fields immediately. The amount of winter wheat planted has declined in the last few years. The swan on Mom's farm seem to be grazing green shoots in the cut bean fields this year. The corn is harvested in mid to late August so there is almost no waste grain left by the time the migratory birds arrive. The swan are still fairly easy to decoy but no where near as easy as in the 80's.

The ducks are sucked into the large flooded corn impoundments that now ring the lake and fill the county. The hunting pressure is tremendous. So the ducks go completely nocturnal unless there is weather to move them during the day.

I would love to see your information.
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Re: The Tundras of North Carolina In reply to
 
Steve was the manager and Shaw helped me collected swans. Kelley was around too. Please pass along my greetings to them all. I'd love to catch up with them. The refuge should have a copy of my thesis somewhere. But basically swans arrived in November fat and fed on SAVs, in December they started loosing weight and field feeding. They continued to feed in fields and loosing through departure in March despite abundant food, they spent much of their time just hanging out and not feeding. They were lighter in weight when they left than when they arrived but were in good condition. My largest adult male weighed about 26 pounds but most were in the 19-20 lbs range. What was interesting was that I found imbedded shot from 7 1/2 to 00 buck in 9% of the birds I collected. I even found a .22 cal bullet in one bird. It had not been legal to hunt them for 60 years at that point and 00 buck and rifles were never legal in that time period too.