Text and Photos by Ali Iyoob
Last 4th of July, I visited Topsail Island in North Carolina with my family, a three hour drive from my home. I knew the crowded beach was not the best place to bird, but packed my camera and binoculars anyway. On the first day, I woke up early to bird the beach, where I viewed Willet, various terns, and Laughing Gulls. Strong winds from offshore pushed in a Sooty Shearwater, a Cory’s Shearwater, and a late Northern Gannet. I also found and photographed many species of flies, salt marsh mosquitoes, beetles, and a hieroglyphic cicada. Although I do not list or observe these species regularly, I knew they were unique to the coast and felt they were worth noting.
On the second day, I came across a bird refuge two miles from the hotel. In this expansive salt marsh, Great and Snowy Egrets dotted the landscape. I spotted a Tricolored and Great Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, and two juvenile White Ibis. Wilson’s and Piping Plovers foraged along the shoreline. A low flying Wood Stork surprised me, a new bird for my NC life list. They have been moving north for many years, for reasons not yet known.
My final day at the marsh turned up a few new finds including Seaside Sparrow, Clapper Rail, Gull-billed Tern, Black Skimmer, Glossy Ibis, Common Moorhen, and American Oystercatcher. The Clapper Rail, a lifer for me, flushed about 100 feet in front of me. The drive back home took us through the sandhills, an amazing habitat. At the mouth of Hell Gates Creek, I found Dukes’s and Brazilian skippers; these butterflies have never been recorded in the county. I saw Painted Bunting, Mississippi Kite, and Loggerhead Shrike, which are not found around Raleigh, where I live. In one weekend I found three lifers, saw several new state birds, and had the opportunity to take some great photos.