Birding Topsail Island

Text and Photos by Ali Iyoob

Laughing Gull   

Laughing Gull

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.

Tricolored Heron 

Tricolored Heron

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.

Wilson's Plover 

Wilson's Plover

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.

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

 

 

2009-07-18T19:18:28+00:00