Hot summer weather severely limits my birding. Between the heat, humidity, and fogged glasses it is tough to find days when being outside is bearable. Recently however, I have been able to join other birders on some early morning birding-by-boat trips on Lake Norman. It is cool and calm most mornings with a cool breeze, perfect for me.




I have written about boat birding before. For years birders have checked the winter gull flock on Lake Norman for activity during the late summer and early fall migration. The lake has received little coverage in June, when the prevailing thought was interesting birds were just not present during that month. June and July of this year have proven that theory wrong.


Brown Booby
Photo by R. Epps


On June 26 I was able to grab a seat on a boat to look for a reported brown booby found earlier in the day. It took just about 30 minutes to relocate the bird sitting unconcerned on a channel marker as summer boat traffic swarmed around it. This bird’s presence may represent perhaps the most unexpected occurrence of a species ever in Mecklenburg County. Boobies are tropical birds confined to tropical seas, only occasionally wandering northward. That this bird wandered north AND inland is nothing short of incredible. 


Arctic Tern
Photo by Jeff Lemons


Just a couple of weeks prior, a first-county record of Arctic tern was found from the boat in the same area. Arctic terns are famous for undertaking the longest migration of any bird in the world; from the Arctic where they nest, to the Antarctic where they spend our winter. This bird was a late migrating non-breeding individual. Most Arctic terns migrate far offshore with only a very few choosing an overland route. It was incredible luck that it was found at all.


Common Tern
Photo by Jeff Lemons


Most recently I joined a small group at dawn to look for more unexpected goodies at the lake. We started at 6:00 AM with cool temperatures, a breeze, low humidity, a nice sunrise, and the overhead calls of purple martins. Up to 10 nesting ospreys with fledged young gave their shrill calls from the wooded islands on the lake or from perches on channel markers. Someone called out they had a couple of white birds diving on the water and all attention was soon on two terns coming right at the boat. They were adult and immature common terns already moving southward from breeding grounds, annual visitors as migrants but unusual in early July.