Bird Is The Word!

In both spring and summer, and especially at North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, bird is indeed the word. The five barrier islands that make up NC’s Brunswick Islands encompass a large network of bird sanctuaries. From the southernmost barrier island, where Sunset Beach stretches southwest to the protected nature preserve of Bird Island, to the community of Southport and the offshore rookeries on Battery Island, there is no shortage of incredible birding experiences in this area.

white ibis

 

The White Ibis is one of the most visible and prolific species with their bright white plumage that contrast against a summer-blue sky and green foliage. According to an article featured by The National Audubon Society, nearly 10 percent of the North American population of White Ibis are supported by the six-acre Battery Island, with more than 5,000 nesting pairs documented in 2012. This tiny spit of land, located just a stone’s throw off Southport’s waterfront promenade, is also home for other wading, shore and song birds. These find refuge in the island’s scrubby shrubs and trees making it the state’s largest wading bird colony and a sanctuary protected by Audubon.

young great blue heron smallIn addition, the more than 45 miles of undeveloped and under-developed shoreline and the pristine estuaries and salt marshes on the islands’ flip-side shelter and sustain a wide variety of wading birds and shorebirds during nesting season.  American Oystercatchers, Black Skimmers, Plovers, Ibis, Egrets, and Herons are among the spring/summertime and year-round residents whose babies hatch here and start the next feathered generation.

Those of us who live here in the pristine coastal communities and barrier islands of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands understand perfectly why these birds choose to return here year after year to nest!

IMG_8855 bThese uncrowded beaches attract plenty of birders and beachgoers too, and while the birds and their fledglings are an amazing site, Audubon provides the following tips to help us protect our nesting shorebirds.  By taking small simple actions to help protect their nesting habitat, you can help them raise the next generation.

Audubon’s Tips to Share the Beach

Respect protected areas and signs. Birds, eggs, nests and chicks are well-camouflaged. Disturbance by people and their pets can cause birds to abandon their eggs and young.

Avoid disturbing groups of birds that are nesting or feeding. If the birds take flight, call loudly, or act agitated, it means you are too close.

Always keep your dog on a leash and away from the birds. Shorebirds perceive people and pets as predators.

Please don’t leave trash or fishing line on the beach. Take your trash with you and place in an appropriate trash container. Trash attracts real predators such as gulls, crows, raccoons and foxes. Fishing line can entangle and kill birds.

Brunswick Islands Sunrise/Sunset Photo Contest Winners

along the shores of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, one of the South’s most stunning natural phenomena occurs every fall through winter. Named one of “10 Incredible Phenomena You Have to See in Fall” by Weather.com, our islands have the unique characteristic of running east-west along the coastline with our beaches facing south. Beginning in late fall, this orientation means you can sit on Oak Island, Caswell Beach, Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle Beach or Holden Beach and watch both the sunrise and sunset over the ocean without having to move your beach chair!

Whatever the time of year, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands features some of the best sunrises and sunsets you’ll experience anywhere.  And no more proof is necessary to highlight this fact than the numerous entries in our first ever Sunrise/Sunset Facebook Photo Contest.  With such a large number of exceptional photos to consider, it was difficult to select four finalists!

Congratulations to our grand prize winner and recipient of a $100 Visa Gift Card and North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands beach towel, Donna Cone.  Donna captured this moment from the shores of Ocean Isle Beach.  Donna’s vibrant sunrise shot received the most likes during the Facebook contest.  For Donna “there is no better time than rising early before others are out to catch a gorgeous ocean sunrise. Truly a spectacular sight.”

2 Donna DeBate Cone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ilona Miskell’s “Sunset at the Dock” shot on Ocean Isle Beach in September received second place honors. Her entry of a tranquil marsh sunset earns her a North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands rolling cooler and beach towel. Ilona told us that her son asked “Mom, don’t you think you have enough sunset pictures.”  She replied “Never!” She adds that “I feel like its a gift at the end of a splendid day.”

7 Ilona Miskell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly Clemmons’ gorgeous shot of sunset captured from along the tide’s edge on Sunset Beach earns her third place honors and a North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands beach towel and hat.

2 Kelly Heine Clemmons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shot on Sunset Beach, the wistful and artistic “Child’s Play at Sunset” submitted by Rochelle Aycoth rounds out our 4 top photos.  Rochelle believes “The Brunswick Islands offer the most unspoiled beaches around. The sunsets, especially heading into the fall, are particularly breathtaking.”  Rochelle will receive a North Carolina’s beach towel for her entry.

Rochelle Aycoth

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, congratulations to our four fabulous finalists!  And thank you to everyone who participated in the contest. Our random prize winner from all entrants is Stephanie Hogston, who wins a rolling cooler. Stephanie submitted a sunset shot from Oak Island.  Our random voter winner is Jeff Broughton who wins a North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands beach towel.

On your next Brunswick Islands visit, be sure to bring your camera and capture those amazing sunrises and sunsets. Who knows, you might be the winner of our next contest.

 

Get Hooked on Pier Fishing in North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands

for a fishing experience that doesn’t involve braving the high seas, pier fishing on one of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands’ piers could be the answer to your desire to reel in a big catch. As the season starts to transition from summer to fall, the scaly swimmers that grace the waters around the barrier islands change as well with red drum, sea trout, mackerel and more.

Take a trip over to historic Southport to experience the quaint Southport Pier near the mouth of the Cape Fear River. This handicapped-accessible pier is a public facility and usage is free for all. Amenities include benches, a gazebo, swings and even ice cream during certain days of the year. Here you can hook a fish or even bird watch as the site is featured on the NC Birding Trail.

Families, competitive fisherman or amateur anglers can line up along the Ocean Crest Pier on Oak Island and reel in a king mackerel and many other species while enjoying a community live bait tank, an onsite weather station for optimal wind speed and air/water temperatures and a full-service restaurant adjacent to the pier.

IMG_8101 oak island pierAlso on Oak Island is the newly re-opened landmark, the Oak Island Pier, formerly known as the Yaupon Pier. With a new restaurant and tiki bar, the Oak Island Pier will provide any visitor with the ultimate pier fishing experience. Take a leisurely stroll along the pier for the views or reel in the catch of the day for a local dining experience. This pier is certainly a welcome return and a big catch!

The pier on Holden Beach offers a great perch to reel in your prize fish from. Selling daily, seasonal and three-day fishing permits and live bait, Holden Beach Pier is the place to be this fall. If you’d rather be a spectator to the sport, you can do so here for just $1.

Just down the way on Ocean Isle Beach, the Ocean Isle Pier offers equipment rentals and season pass sales along with ice cream, drinks, fishing bait and tackle and rods. Fishing fees are $9 per rod. Adult spectators are $1 and the fee is 50 cents for children under the age of 6.

DSC_1719_Sunset Beach_Bait Casting Pier_LRCalling all king fishermen – the Sunset Beach Pier is waiting for you! This 900-foot pier on Sunset Beach is a hot spot and includes top-notch amenities: a double sink at the cleaning table, a snack bar with breakfast and hot sandwiches, a game room and even an ATM in the air-conditioned pier house. Inside, you can purchase bait and rent a rod. Three-day, five-day and seasonal fishing passes are available and include parking.

In North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands, there are prized landmark fishing piers on four of the five islands. All are equipped with handicapped access, food, bait, tackle and rentals. And most importantly, residents and visitors will always be there to offer advice and encouragement for novice and expert fishermen alike.  So be sure to make pier fishing part of your next fishing or family beach vacation to North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands.

Beach Smart: Stay Safe In The Ocean

with miles of un-crowded sand, surf, fun and sun, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the perfect destination for beach lovers. And a big part of a beach vacation for DSC_8627_Retouchedmany is enjoying mother nature and the ocean. Wherever you take your beach vacation – in the Brunswick Islands or elsewhere – it’s important to remember that we share the ocean with many types of animals and that tides and currents are an everyday part of the ocean. With that in mind, please take a moment to review some tips on staying safe in the water.

RIP CURRENTS

Rip currents are fast-moving water channels that form when waves break onshore between barrier islands, sandbars or piers; gravity pulls the water forcefully and swiftly out to sea, a hazard for even the best swimmers.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rip currents can be difficult to see, but here are some clues:

  • a channel of churning, choppy water;
  • an area with a noticeable difference in color;
  • a line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving steadily out to sea;
  • and/or a break in the incoming wave pattern.

Even the strongest swimmer can’t swim against a rip current, but you can outsmart it:

  • Stay calm. Don’t fight by swimming straight back to shore, or you’ll risk tiring yourself out.
  • Swim sideways out of the current and parallel to the shore (see diagram). Then swim at an angle back to the shore.
  • If you’re still caught, float or tread water. The current will eventually dissipate. Even if you’re carried far out, if you haven’t worn yourself out fighting it, you should be able to slowly swim parallel and then at an angle back to shore. If your arms are too tired, swim on your back and use just your legs and feet to propel yourself to the beach.

If you see someone caught in a rip current, don’t try to rescue them yourself. Call 911; yell out the above instructions, and/or toss them a flotation device – it’s a good idea to take one to the beach on every visit. Here’s a link to the NOAA rip current forecast for our area beaches: http://www.weather.gov/ilm/BeachRip

OCEAN WILDLIFE

aIMG_1546 resizeJellyfish can put the sting on your vacation. Always scan the water before splashing in. Make sure you educate your children about jellyfish, as they might touch them out of curiosity in the water or on the sand. In case of a sting, rinse off any remaining tentacles with salt water, not fresh, and use a credit card or other item to scrape, if necessary. Then rinse with vinegar, not fresh water. If you experience swelling, shortness of breath, or faintness, seek medical attention immediately.PMOW

The less common blue-purple Portuguese man o’ war is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore. It can deliver a painful sting even when dead. Portugese man o’ war stings are treated differently than jellyfish stings. First apply saltwater and then follow-up with hot water for 15 to 20 minutes.  Do not treat with vinegar. If necessary seek medical attention.

While the ocean is home to a wide variety of sea life including sharks, shark encounters are rare.  According to the ISAF, Florida Museum of Natural History, the likelihood of a shark attack is 1 in 11.5 million. The likelihood of a fatality is less than 1 in 264 million. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks/Statistics/beachattacks.htm  To put it in perspective, in North Carolina you would be 193 times more likely to die from a lightning strike than a shark attack.

Though chance encounters with sharks are highly unlikely, there are precautions you can take when swimming in the ocean:

  • Sharks actually try to avoid humans, but if you’re in murky water they may not see you.  Use extra caution.
  • Leave shiny jewelry on shore – to a shark it may look like fish scales.
  • Sharks see contrast particularly well so dark swimsuits are preferable to bright colored clothing.
  • Remember that you’re sharing the water with fish that attract sharks and other predators. Avoid swimming in the early morning, at dusk and at night when fish and sharks are feeding.
  • Avoid swimming between islands, and within 300 feet of surfers, piers, fishermen and where seagulls or other birds are diving and feeding.
  • Use caution around sandbars with steep drop-offs toward the ocean.
  • Avoid swimming alone, especially far from shore in deeper waters.
  • Avoid swimming if bleeding because a shark’s sense of smell is highly sensitive.
  • Don’t fish while standing more than knee deep in the surf.
  • Do not harass a shark – even nurse sharks can bite.
  • Do not enter water if sharks are around and calmly evacuate the water if any sharks are seen.

For the complete brochure on Shark Sense, click here: http://ncseagrant.ncsu.edu/ncseagrant_docs/products/2000s/shark_sense.pdf

BOATING SAFETY

Boating safety is a serious priority in North Carolina. Operating watercraft is both fun and safe when you observe the rules. For regulations and rules to be aware of when
you bring your boat to our waters, please follow this link to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s boating regulations: http://www.ncwildlife.org/Boating/LawsSafety/BoatingRegulations.aspx

Public boating access areas and marinas are available throughout Brunswick Islands. If you’re planning to rent a fishing or pleasure boat or personal watercraft, our outfitters will include a safety course and checklist.DSC_0390_OIB_Offshore Boat_LR

By educating yourself, your friends and family about ocean safety, you can ensure that everyone has a great vacation and can’t wait to return again soon!

 

Pedal Along the Coast

the quaint city streets, peaceful seaside roads and gorgeous weather of North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands are made for bicycling. Visitors to the Brunswick Islands can feel the sun on their faces and the wind on their backs as they cycle through the charming seaside streets to the beach or through the moss-draped live oaks on the mainland.

Visitors can bring their own bikes or rent them from a number of different companies. Most companies provide adult and child bikes, as well as child trailers to attach to the back of a bike so the whole family can come along for the ride. Tandem bikes are also available at Beach Fun Rentals, Coastal Urge, and PaddleOKI.

The Adventure Kayak Company even gives guided bike tours in and around Southport, teaching guests about the town’s historical blockade runners, river pilots and pirates and showing them the beauty of the live oaks and historical waterfront property.

DSC_8114_BICYCLEOnce they have their bikes, guests can take them out on the 45 miles of wide, stunning beaches, along the roads near the Intracoastal Waterway, or in scenic area parks. North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands has many roads that follow the curve of the coast: Beach Drive and Ocean Drive on Oak Island, Caswell Beach Road on Caswell Beach, Ocean Boulevard on Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Boulevard and First Street on Ocean Isle Beach, Main Street on Sunset Beach, South Bald Head Wynd and Cape Creek Road on Bald Head Island. Click here to see Holden Beach’s Bike Route map. There are three different routes on Holden Beach totaling 20 miles. The Brunswick Nature Park offers bike trails through a scenic 900 acre wooded park near Leland. See the Brunswick Nature Park hiking and biking trail map here.

So whether you’re in the mood for a leisurely pedal along the beach or a sightseeing adventure, North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands is the perfect place for your coastal bike ride.