Spring Birding in NC’s Brunswick Islands

plovers - birding

The beginning of spring is just days away and with it’s promise of warmer weather, spring also means the beginning of migration and nesting seasons for birds. The five barrier islands that make up NC’s Brunswick Islands – Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island and Bald Head Island- encompass a large network of bird sanctuaries.  Situated along the coast of Southeastern North Carolina, the Brunswick Islands’ varied ecosystems make it a natural haven for hundreds of species of birds. In fact, there have been more than 330 species of birds spotted in Brunswick County.  Brunswick County is also home to eight of the birding sites along the North Carolina Birding Trail!

white ibis

North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands has more than 45 miles of unspoiled shoreline, pristine estuaries, and salt marshes that sustain a wide variety of wading birds and shorebirds during the spring nesting season.  Battery Island, located in the Cape Fear River across from the Southport waterfront, alone is home to nearly 10 percent of the North American population of White Ibis. White Ibis is one of the most visible and prolific species with their bright white plumage that contrasts the colors in the sky. In 2012, there were more than 5,000 documented nesting pairs of this species on the six-acre island. Battery Island is a bird sanctuary protected by the National Audubon Society.

Black Skimmers - birdingIn addition to White Ibis, other shore birds and wading birds visitors to the Brunswick Islands are likely to encounter include several species of terns and gulls, American Oystercatchers, Black Skimmers, Plovers, Egrets, and Herons. Away from the shore, in nature preserves such as the Green Swamp PreserveEv-Henwood Nature Preserve, and Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve, visitors may see a variety of warblers and sparrows as well as Brown-headed Nuthatches, Summer Tanagers, and Indigo Buntings.

More on birding and bird walks in the Brunswick Islands with Greg Loomis with Wild Bird & Garden in Southport:

We spoke with local bird enthusiast, Greg Loomis with Wild Bird & Garden in Southport about bird walks, birding in the area, and some of his favorite bird spots. His answers are shared below.

How can a visitor to Brunswick Islands get involved in birding?

“Wild Bird & Garden hosts free monthly bird walks that are open to residents and visitors. These bird walks are held on the third Wednesday of every month at 8:30 a.m. Our group walks down to the waterfront of the Southport Riverwalk & Pier. The people who participate on these walks are so knowledgeable and passionate about birding, some can even identity the type of bird by their song alone.”

What species of birds can participants on these walks expect to see?

“We see a lot of different birds on these walks including White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Seaside Sparrow, Painted Bunting, Carolina Chickadees and more.”

What is the rarest bird that you have encountered on a bird walk in the area?

“I once saw a painted bunting in Southport!” (For those who don’t know, painted buntings are one of the most spectacularly colored and visually impressive birds in the United States. Males can be easily identified by their blue head, green back, and red rump and belly. )

Are there any suggested materials or equipment participants should bring on the bird walks?

“We suggest that guests bring a pair of binoculars, but visitors or residents are able to rent them from Wild Bird & Garden if they don’t bring a pair with them.”

To learn more about birding in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, and to plan your trip, visit www.NCBrunswick.com

Follow NC’s Brunswick Islands on social media at www.facebook.com/NCBrunswick/and www.instagram.com/ncbrunswickislands/

 

Find Scenic Views and Abundant Wildlife at the Nature Preserves in NC’s Brunswick Islands

From the area’s 45 miles of pristine beaches to the unique inland ecosystems, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is home to a range of diverse nature preserves where wildlife thrives. Visitors can enjoy beautiful scenery and discover native plants and animals, by foot, bike, kayak and more. Choose one of these five nature preserves for your next excursion in the Brunswick Islands, and read on to learn more about local efforts to sustain many of these picturesque spaces from Mansfield Fisher with The Nature Conservancy.

Bald Head Island

Accessible by ferry or private boat, Bald Head Island features 10,000 acres of salt marsh and 180 acres of protected maritime forest, all preserved by the Bald Head Island Conservancy. This distinct coastal area is also part of the NC Birding Trail, where visitors can spot Wilson’s Plover, Painting Bunting and several types of wintering waterfowl. The kayaking and birding expeditions offered throughout the year by the Conservancy offer a non-intrusive and scenic view of these fascinating species.

Bird Island Nature Preserve

Bird Island

Located on an undeveloped portion of Sunset Beach, Bird Island is a treasure with more than 1,200 acres of unspoiled salt marsh and tidal creeks, along with natural dunes and sandy beaches. The island serves as an outdoor laboratory and classroom for scientists and students to learn more about how the ecosystem functions and how we can help to sustain precious coastal areas. The Bird Island Preservation Society Stewards also lead educational walks at certain times during the year. Access Bird Island from the southernmost public beach access point on Sunset Beach to make the trip by bike or foot – be sure to look for the Kindred Spirit Mailbox in the dunes about a mile down the beach!

Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve

Pine WarblerMore than 6,000 acres make up this expansive preserve of rare plants and animals. Boiling Spring Lakes Preserve is home to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, carnivorous plants, rough-leaf loosestrife, and more than 400 vascular plant species, including the Venus flytrap. Visitors can see the stunning preserve for themselves on the Boiling Spring Lakes Nature Trail, accessible at the town’s Community City off Highway 87. The preserve is also part of the NC Birding Trail where visitors can encounter species like the Pine Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak and more.

Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve – preserved by UNCW

Encompassing 175 acres preserved by University of North Carolina Wilmington, the Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve boasts an impressive variety of native plants and animals in the inland town of Leland. Sightings of the Prothonotary Warbler, Swainson’s Warbler and Summer Tanager earned this preserve a spot on the NC Birding Trail. Visitors can take in this natural haven on seven miles of maintained trails throughout the preserve.

Green Swamp Preserve

Pitcher PlantSitting on 15,000 acres, the Green Swamp Preserve is an incredibly unique natural space, considered a longleaf pine savanna, with a diverse herb layer of orchids and insectivorous plants in the open areas. The Preserve is also home to four species of pitcher plants, a stunning sight and great photo-op for nature enthusiasts. Beyond plant life, a range of animals are native to the Green Swamp Preserve – notably the American alligator, fox squirrel, Henslow’s and Bachman’s sparrow and Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly. Just minutes from the coast, visitors can park at the trail access point off Highway 211 in Supply to see this splendid preserve for themselves.


More on nature preserves with Mansfield Fisher of The Nature Conservancy:

Mansfield Fisher works with The Nature Conservancy at the Wilmington, NC-based field office, which focuses on Longleaf restoration through controlled burning. Much of Mansfield’s work takes place at the Green Swamp Preserve in Brunswick County.

Venus Flytrap Green Swamp Nature Preserve“Last year, our Longleaf program in North Carolina assisted or led on controlled burns totaling more than 25,000 acres. We are working to restore natural Longleaf Pine systems and preserve these threatened ecosystems that are home to many rare plants, like the Venus flytrap.”

Why is the fall season a great time to visit the Green Swamp Preserve?

“There is always a reason to go out to the Green Swamp in Brunswick County because, as the seasons change, there will be many different plants to see. The fall is a great time to visit the Green Swamp because this is when many of the grasses flower. The wiregrass and bluestems produce seas of golden grass. Some of the showier plants that bloom in the fall are narrow-leaved sunflower, blazing star, goldenrod, and many kinds of asters.”

What is some of the most unique wildlife you’ve seen in the Green Swamp Preserve?

“There are 16 species of native orchids that can be found in the Green Swamp and 14 different Brown headed nuthatchspecies of carnivorous plants. You will see beautiful longleaf and pond pine trees throughout the preserve. The Green Swamp is a birdwatchers’ paradise. Some of the bird species that can be found are Bachman’s Sparrow, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Bobwhite Quail, Pine Warbler and Henslow’s Sparrows. If you are lucky, you may see White-tailed deer, eastern cougar and bobcats.”

What is your favorite fact about the Green Swamp Preserve that people may not know?

“My favorite fact about the Green Swamp is the important role that fire plays in maintaining the delicate balance of these ecosystems. Lightning and Native Americans maintained fire in these ecosystems and, therefore, many of the plants in the Green Swamp need fire to survive. Without periodic burning, the savannas would become overgrown with shrubs and crowd out many of the flowering herbaceous plants.”

Find The Nature Conservancy on social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TNCNC/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tnc_nc/

To learn more about nature in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, and to plan your trip, visit www.NCBrunswick.com.

You can follow the North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands on social media at https://www.facebook.com/NCBrunswick/  and https://www.instagram.com/ncbrunswickislands/.