Williamston Field Trip Schedule and Descriptions
Click ==> Map of meeting and field trip locations
Limit for all field trips is 15 participants unless noted otherwise in the trip description.
|Thursday, January 29|
|Friday, January 30||Saturday, January 31|
|Half-day Morning||Half-day Morning|
|Half-day Afternoon||Half-day Afternoon|
|Sunday, February 1|
Unless noted otherwise, all trips leave from the Holiday Inn-Williamston. In order to conserve resources and reduce the number of vehicles caravanning to trip sites, carpooling is encouraged. Please notify your trip leader at departure time if you can carry passengers or if you desire to carpool with others.
Please note that field trips may fill up, so be sure to include second choices on the registration form. Conversely, last minute openings may occur, and updated trip rosters will be available in the meeting room at the Holiday Inn.
Winter Meeting Field Trip Descriptions
- Trips 1, 18 – Vernon James Research Station and beyond
- Trip 18 is full. Although not a site on the NC Birding Trail, and with limited access because of restrictions for the research fields, we would be remiss in not offering this location for a field trip. The research plots often host wintering shorebirds and are worth scanning. All of the fields in the Research Station will be viewed from the public road through the area, so spotting scopes are recommended. Those reading Carolinabirds will know that the eastern edge of the Research Station is a magnet for Bald Eagles because of the catfish ponds. These privately owned ponds are quite appealing to eagles, and large numbers congregate in the area - a rare find in the Carolinas. Continuing east to Lake Phelps will provide an opportunity to check the fields and lake shore that almost always provide great birding. This trip will no doubt have birders talking about the eagles and other discoveries along the way. Note: The Research Station access restriction is to prevent the spread of tropical spiderwort. This plant is an exotic, invasive weed that has been found on the Station and active eradication programs are in place to prevent its spread.
- Trips 2, 17 – Windsor/Williamston Sampler: Roanoke River NWR
- Trips 2 and 17 are full The Kuralt Trail, Cashie Wetlands Walk, Roanoke-Cashie River Center The Roanoke River arguably has the most pristine bottomland hardwood forest system left in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, and the Kuralt Trail offers a first hand look. Expect to see and hear numerous woodpeckers while studying the ecology that makes this region so attractive to Neotropical migrants during the breeding season. The trail has numbered stops and a corresponding brochure as well as interpretive signs. Continuing on to the Cashie Wetlands Walk, birders will have an opportunity to explore a natural wetland environment as they walk the boardwalk through a cypress forest to the edge of the Cashie River. An observation deck along the boardwalk allows for views of wetland birds and other wildlife where Wood Duck, Barred Owl and woodpeckers are possible. The Roanoke-Cashie River Center has a small regional museum and open landscape where birders should check the skies for hawks and the possibility of a Bald Eagle. This trip will provide an excellent opportunity to learn about the region and the strong influence of the Roanoke and Cashie Rivers. In the deep woods of the river systems, a surprise Neotropical winter holdover is not out of the question.
- Trips 3, 7, 15 – Roanoke River NWR
- (Trip 7 is full) With nearly 21,000 acres in five tracts along 70 miles of the Roanoke River, this is perhaps one of the most un-explored refuges in North Carolina. Stretching from Hamilton to the western Albemarle Sound, the refuge has 9,500 acres of bottomland hardwood forest and 8,000 acres of cypress/tupelo swamp. What better way to explore this region than by motor boat with an experienced member of the Refuge staff as guide? Year-round woodpecker residents are common in the Refuge and wintering waterfowl are sure to be seen along the river. The river corridor also hosts wintering Bald Eagles that are always a welcome sight in North Carolina. Birders on this trip will explore the ecology of the river, search for birds and enjoy the remote swamps and bottomlands that provide critical habitat for many of our breeding residents. Trip limit 10 participants. Dress appropriately for a winter boat trip.
- Trips 4, 16 – Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park & Eco-Center Sylvan Heights
- Waterfowl Park maintains the world's largest collection of waterfowl, including many rare and endangered species. Dedicated to the conservation of the world's waterfowl, this eight acre avian breeding preserve in Scotland Neck is home to over 180 species of birds-more than half of the world's known species of ducks, geese and swans-along with cranes, pheasants, parrots and many other exotic birds. In 2006, the Eco-Center was opened in conjunction with the North Carolina Zoological Society on an adjacent 18-acre property and now provides trails, gardens and avian exhibits along with conservation-oriented programs for the public. Sylvan Heights staff will provide a guided tour where, with some imagination, birders will be able to transport themselves on birding trips around the globe. Maybe no "life list" birds, but certainly many lifetime views of rare and endangered birds from around the world will be seen on this trip. Trip limit 20 people. Cost/person: $7.50, payable with registration.
- Trips 5, 13 – River Park North and other local favorites
- Trips 5 and 13 are full This 324-acre park along the Tar River in Greenville consists of bottomland forest as well as fields, open areas and numerous small lakes. Trails through the park allow for open views of the lakes where a Bald Eagle might be seen overhead, while waterfowl, grebes and wading birds can be found in the lakes. The wooded areas, the cypress swamp forest and a power line right-of-way with early successional growth provide additional habitat types for exploration and discovery of wintering passerines. Continue to explore the region with a visit to the Voice of America site where, with luck and sharp eyes, a Henslow's Sparrow might be found foraging. Along the way, several locations hold the potential to see roadside sparrows, and the catfish ponds often provide other species of interest.
- Trips 6, 14 – Edenton Sampler: National Fish Hatchery & Bennett's Millpond
- Trip 6 is full. Egrets, herons and cormorants alike know they can find a quick gourmet meal at the Edenton National Fish Hatchery. Many of the 36 ponds are drawn down in the winter, but there will be habitat to attract shorebirds, waders and wintering waterfowl. Scan the trees along the river for a possible Bald Eagle and perhaps an Osprey before continuing to the back of the hatchery to the short boardwalk that ends with a viewing platform on scenic Pembroke Creek. Before leaving, be sure to visit the small aquarium that has displays of local freshwater fish. Continuing on to Bennett's Millpond, walk the short trail along the edge of this small millpond for nice views of the Spanish moss-laden cypress trees and the pond itself. With considerable underwater vegetation, the shallow edges should be a great place for dabbling ducks. Watch for Hooded Merganser, other waterfowl and waders throughout the pond. The vegetation along the edges will no doubt also hold a few surprises.
- Trips 8, 20 – Historic Hope Plantation & Cashie River Center
- History and birding come together on this trip as birders will have the opportunity not only to visit the historic Hope Plantation house, but also to bird the grounds. With 18 acres of partially open habitat and 28 wooded acres that are accessible from two short trails, this less-birded site might produce a surprise or two. In addition, a visit to the Roanoke-Cashie River Center with its small regional museum will give participants an opportunity to learn about the natural history of the area. Together these sites provide a great opportunity to spend a leisurely afternoon learning about the rich historical and natural heritage of the region while providing an opportunity to bird along the way. If participants choose to tour the houses, the $8.00 entrance fee is payable at the site.
- Trips 9, 21 – Washington/Tyrrell County Sampler: Pettigrew State Park, Eastern 4-H Environmental Education Conference Center & Vernon James Research Station
- Trip 21 is full Using back roads, country lanes and hiking trails, this trip offers a wide selection of habitats for birders to see Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Tundra Swan, Snow Geese, and other wintering waterfowl as well as sparrows and birds of the open fields. Pettigrew State Park, with its 3,878 acres of land around Lake Phelps and along the Scuppernong River, as well as the 16,600 acres of the lake itself will be the highlight. The park offers several trails that pass through cypress and hardwood forests before reaching overlooks to view Lake Phelps and observe wintering waterfowl. Woodpeckers, hawks and possibly a perched Peregrine Falcon might be seen from the trails and overlooks. Continuing on, the 4-H Center sits on the bank of the Albemarle Sound where scanning might produce additional wintering waterfowl. The Center has numerous paths and trails that cross both upland pine and hardwood forest as well as open fields and along tree lines - areas that provide a good opportunity to watch for wintering sparrows. This trip will be rounded out with a drive through the Vernon James Research Station to check the adjoining catfish ponds for a congregation of Bald Eagles that winter in the area.
- Trips 10, 22 – Beaufort & Martin County Sampler: Goose Creek State Park, Stewart Parkway Riverwalk, Morningstar Nature Refuge
- Trip 22 is full. Goose Creek State Park is a haven for birds. Access to a variety of habitats, from brackish marsh and freshwater swamps, to open fields and mature mixed forest, provides birders with opportunities to view a wide number of bird species in all seasons. Boardwalks provide up-close encounters with wetland birds. Barred Owl and Red-shouldered Hawk reside in the wooded swamps. A feeder station provides an easy way to view locally common species such as Brown-headed Nuthatch. Trails in upland mixed forest should produce Red-headed Woodpecker, and Golden-crowned Kinglets flit in the tree-tops in winter. Along the marshy creeks and rivers look for wintering waterfowl such as Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye or Red-breasted Merganser. Returning to Williamston, several additional Birding Trail sites will add interest to this trip. The Stewart Parkway Riverwalk follows the Pamlico River and begins at the NC Estuarium where participants may want to visit the exhibits if time allows. This quick stop will provide a view of the manmade wetlands and Castle Island on the river. Watch for rafts of waterfowl and grebes along the walk and possibly other surprises as well. The privately owned Morningstar Nature Refuge will surprise and inspire the naturalists in the group. Gail Roberson has created a charming habitat around her home as well as a delightful, small 10-acre refuge to attract and study birds and wildlife throughout the year. Trails in the refuge include one to an observatory overlooking the refuge and swamp, as well as a wetland walk bridge across the forested wetland swamp. This charming refuge will be a delightful end to a great day of birding. Admission fee for optional NC Estuarium exhibit: $3, payable on site Morningstar Nature Refuge: Release form required for all participants - to be completed on site Pocosin Lakes NWR (PLNWR) Series Named for the Algonquian word meaning "swamp on a hill", Pocosin Lakes is home to thousands of wintering waterfowl that graze farm fields by day and roost on lakes by night. The Pungo Unit of the refuge is the most reliable for waterfowl and is the refuge destination for this trip. During the winter months more than 80,000 Tundra Swan and Snow Goose can be seen leaving Pungo Lake in huge flocks at dawn and returning at dusk. Roads leading to the lake pass open fields and impoundments that provide opportunities to view foraging waterfowl and raptors. Canals lined with shrubby vegetation along the roads are home to Wood Duck and sparrows. The observation tower on the lake is a good place to view the lake, although waterfowl are typically seen at a distance. The Pungo Unit is most productive in winter, and more than 200 species have been listed on the refuge at various times of the year. Black Bear can also be seen on the refuge, and Red Wolves have been reintroduced. Refuge staff will provide birders with information on waterfowl, management and the ecology of the refuge. We are pleased to report that the Pungo Unit of the refuge where field trips are scheduled was not significantly affected by this past summer's wildfire.
- Trips 11, 23 – Pocosin Lakes NWR & Van Swamp Game Land
- Trips 11 and 23 are full. In conjunction with the refuge, the Van Swamp Game Land will provide another setting for birding a hardwood swamp forest and dense scrubland habitat that is virtually impenetrable on foot. Birding opportunities are therefore limited to the roads. Travel along the Game Land roads stopping at various locations to check for birds. Toward the end of the drive, thinned pine stands offer opportunities to bird in more open habitat. Northern Bobwhite, Brown-headed Nuthatch and others are possibilities in the Game Land. NOTE: Trip 11 has a later departure time and will return after dark in order to see the geese returning to the refuge at sunset. Trip 23 has an EARLY departure to see the geese leaving the refuge and will return by late afternoon in time for the buffet dinner.
- Trips 12, 24 – Pocosin Lakes NWR & Rail Switch Nature Trail
- Trip 12 is full In conjunction with the refuge, the Rail Switch Trail will provide a nice contrast with its urban setting along the Roanoke River in Plymouth. The trail is a little over 0.3 miles long and includes a walkable section adjacent to the Roanoke River with boardwalks and three observation decks. These areas provide excellent views of wooded and marshland habitats as well as the river itself. Rails, wading birds and wintering waterfowl are all possibilities on this trail. NOTE: Trip 12 has a later departure time and will return after dark in order to see the geese returning to the refuge at sunset. Trip 24 has an EARLY departure to see the geese leaving the refuge and will return by late afternoon in time for the buffet dinner.
- Trip 19 – Stewart Parkway Riverwalk & Morningstar Nature Refuge
- This trip is full The Riverwalk is a brick promenade that connects to a wooden boardwalk beginning at the NC Estuarium. The boardwalk extends east along the Pamlico River, past manmade wetlands with views of nearby Castle Island on the river. A variety of wetland associated species can be seen from the boardwalk. Watch for rafts of waterfowl and grebes. Bald Eagle may be spotted year round. Birders interested in visiting the Estuarium exhibit can pay the admission fee at the door. Continue the trip at the Morningstar Nature Refuge. This privately owned site consists of ten acres and offers nice opportunities for birding. The short trails, including one to an observatory overlooking the refuge and swamp, allow quick and easy access to wetland sites typical of eastern North Carolina. The wetland walk bridge across the forested wetland swamp is an especially good spot. Be on the lookout for Red-shouldered Hawks overhead and listen for the calls of the native Wood Duck. Birders will also enjoy pathways through the private herb, evergreen and perennial gardens to observe other wildlife, study the plant life and just relax in the lovely setting. Admission fee for optional NC Estuarium exhibit: $3, payable on site Morningstar Nature Refuge: release form required for all participants - to be completed on site
- Trip A – Plymouth Museums and Lunch
- When a quaint waterfront is mentioned in North Carolina, most of us think of coastal towns - few associate Plymouth with a maritime history, yet the Roanoke River and Plymouth have played a significant role in the history of North Carolina. The Roanoke River Lighthouse and Maritime Museum exhibits show the importance of Plymouth as a port town for schooners, steamboats and barges moving up river to Roanoke Rapids. The river lighthouse was one of several used for navigation along the river in the 1800s. Plymouth also played an important role in the Civil War, and the Port O'Plymouth Museum features the replica of a Civil War ironclad at dock in the Roanoke River. The ironclad was designed as a ramming vessel to sink other vessels. God's Creation Wildlife Museum, with exhibits of animals from around the state and the world, will be an added bonus for the morning. This half-day excursion to explore Plymouth's museums and history will end with lunch on your own at a local restaurant. Those interested can continue to Edenton for the afternoon. Participants will carpool from the hotel in Williamston. Cost: $3/person/museum, payable on site.
- Trip B – Edenton
- Few North Carolina towns have more historical significance than Edenton, and much of that history remains with outstanding 18th century architecture in evidence at some of the states oldest homes and churches. The 1767 Chowan County courthouse, an original 1886 river lighthouse, and a site along the Maritime Underground Railroad offer many opportunities for a glimpse into the past. This excursion will begin at the Visitors Center for a short informational audio and a chance to review the exhibits. A guided trolley tour will provide a nice overview of Edenton and its rich history. The Arts Council exhibit and a visit to the historic Barker House will round out a relaxing and informative afternoon. Participants will continue the morning trip from Plymouth and drive directly to Edenton, or they can meet others at the Visitors Center in Edenton. Cost: $10/person for the trolley tour, payable on site.
- Trip C – Martin County Historic Sites
- This all day trip will be hosted by the Martin County Tourism Development Authority. Plan to relax, leave the driving to the TDA and enjoy the lovely scenery of this "inner banks" area while exploring the local history. This all day excursion will begin with a visit to Historic Hope Plantation for a look into the past. The plantation was home to Governor Stone and the complex offers unique insights into the late 18th and early 19th century rural life of eastern North Carolina. After lunch on your own at a local restaurant, the tour will continue with a driving tour of historic Hamilton. The excursion will end with a visit to the Fort Branch Civil War site along the Roanoke River before returning to the hotel by mid to late afternoon. This excursion is sure to give participants a new awareness of our North Carolina heritage and entice them to return to further explore this region. Cost: $8/person to tour the Historic Hope Plantation homes, payable on site.
- Bonus Trip BT1 – Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center
- Just off I-95 in Four Oaks near Smithfield, Howell Woods will be a perfect place to take a driving break and stretch your legs with a little birding. This 2,856- acre property is actively managed for wildlife, conservation education and outdoor recreation. Birding will only be available around the visitor center for this visit but even that is a special treat at Howell Woods. In winter, sparrows are abundant and raptors might be seen overhead. The small pond may even have a few waterfowl to whet your appetite for the upcoming weekend. Directions: From I-95, take exit 90 (US 701/NC 96). If coming from the south, turn left onto NC 96 and then almost immediately cross US 701 at the gas stations onto Devils Racetrack Road (SR 1009). Travel for 8.25 miles on Devils Racetrack to the Learning Center on the left. If coming from the north, turn right from the exit ramp, go over the bridge and turn left onto Devils Racetrack Road. NOTE: Meet naturalist and manager Jamie Sasser at the Howell Woods Visitors Center at 9:30 AM for a 2- 3 hour walk. Plan to bring your own snacks and water. Local restaurants are nearby or you can picnic at the visitors' center. Trip limit of 15 participants Cost: $5.00
- Bonus Trip BT2 – Pea Island and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuges
- This trip is full. Surely two of North Carolina's most popular refuges, this bonus trip will give folks an opportunity to begin their CBC weekend along the coast before heading to Williamston. Bordered on the west by Pamlico Sound and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, a winter's day at Pea Island is sure to provide an abundance of wintering waterfowl and wading birds. Scan the marshes for rails and the ocean for passing scoters, mergansers, loons and grebes. Continue the quest at Alligator River for raptors and the possibility of Black Bear on this 150,000-acre refuge. Both refuges are sure to hold a few surprises. If time allows, other local sites may be added to the day's itinerary. Directions: From Nags Head, take Highway 12 south. Cross the Bonner Bridge and the visitor center will be approximately 3.75 miles on the right. NOTE: Meet trip leader Jeff Lewis at the Pea Island Visitors Center on the Outer Banks at 8:00AM. A lunch stop is planned, but in winter many area restaurants are closed, so be sure to have snacks and drinks available as a back-up. Trip limit of 15 participants Cost $5.00
- Bonus Trip BT3 – Mattamuskeet NWR
- This trip is full. Most birders from the Carolinas know Lake Mattamuskeet not only from the many stories about birds that have been seen there, but also by having visited themselves. This half-day bonus trip will be a perfect way to end our CBC weekend of birding. From the ducks and swans that can be seen across the lake from the causeway to the more isolated edges along some of the drives, the lake, impoundments, marsh and cypress forest all offer areas to explore and birds to see in the winter at Lake Mattamuskeet. NOTE: Meet trip leader Kent Fiala at 7:00 AM at the Holiday Inn to travel to Lake Mattamuskeet. Trip will end no later than noon so those traveling long distances can reach home before too late in the day. Plan to provide your own snacks and drinks for the day. Trip limit of 15 participants Cost: $5.00
Note on all field trips: Space of all field trips is limited to ensure the highest quality birding experience possible for all participants. Early registration will provide you with the best opportunity to sign up for your preferred outings.