Wrightsville Beach Field Trip Schedule and Descriptions
|Friday, January 24
||Saturday, January 25
|Trip #1||Oak Island and Ft. Caswell–6:30|
|Trip #2||Bald Head Island–6:45|
|Trip #3||Holly Shelter and Topsail Beach–6:30|
|Trip #4||Fort Fisher, Aquarium, etc.–6:45|
|Trip #5||Southport and Boiling Springs Lakes–7:00|
|Trip #6||Brunswick Nature Park, Orton Lake, Funston
|Trip #19||Oak Island and Ft. Caswell–6:30|
|Trip #20||Bald Head Island–6:45|
|Trip #21||Holly Shelter and Topsail Beach–6:30|
|Trip #22||Fort Fisher, Aquarium, etc.–6:45|
|Trip #23||Southport and Boiling Springs Lakes–7:00|
|Trip #24||Brunswick Nature Park, Orton Lake, Funston
Wrightsville Beach Meeting Field Trip Descriptions
- Trips 1, 19: Oak Island and Ft. Caswell
From the beachfront of Caswell Beach to the lawns of
Ft. Caswell and on to the salt marshes and woods of
Fish Factory Road, participants will be treated to a
broad mixture of seabirds, shorebirds, raptors,
sparrows, winter songbirds, ducks, waders, terns, and
gulls. This route, borrowed from the Southport
Christmas Count, is very productive and usually
yields a few surprises! Time permitting and if accessible,
a quick stop at the Yaupon Beach Pier may be
included. Individuals will be charged $5 for a grounds
pass at the Fort. There is a lot of walking on this trip.
(Restrooms and lunch places are available)
- Trips 2, 20: Bald Head Island
Bald Head Island offers a fun day with more than just
birds to look at. There is a 20-minute ferry ride, views
of the wonderful homes on the island, and both the
Cape Fear River basin and the ocean to view. The
birding in winter can be very interesting. Northern
Gannets are seen over the ocean, and there is always
the possibility for scoters and the occasional jaeger.
In the wooded areas of the island you can look for an
Orange-crowned Warbler or Blue-headed Vireo. Bald
Head Island has an environment unlike other places in
North Carolina. Cabbage Palmettos are common and
this is their northern limit. The flora and fauna of the
island are similar to the coastal areas of South Carolina.
The island also features the oldest lighthouse in
North Carolina, fondly called Old Baldy. There are
additional costs associated with this field trip, and attendees
will be responsible for paying for their ferry
ride, cart fees, and parking fees on the day of the trip.
The current round trip ferry cost is $24.75 per person.
Parking at the ferry terminal is $8 per car (less per
person if you carpool). Golf carts will be rented as it's
a three mile walk to the birding locales. Each participant
should budget between $15 and $16 for the golf
(Restrooms available and limited restaurant options)
- Trips 3, 21: Holly Shelter Game Lands and Topsail Beach
This trip will focus on longleaf pine–wiregrass habitats
within the Holly Shelter Game Land. We should
find Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and there is a good
chance of finding one or more Bachman's Sparrows,
even though they become very secretive and mouselike
in the cooler months. Maybe we will get lucky
and find a Henslow's Sparrow, although finding this
species will be more of a long shot. Walking in these
habitats is fairly easy but, especially if there have
been recent rains, it may be wet. Participants should
be prepared for some wet spots with up to an inch of
water. Additionally, we will be checking the beaches
at nearby Topsail Island in the afternoon.
restroom availability except at lunchtime, strenuous
walking in possibly very wet areas.)
- Trips 4, 7, 13, 22, 25, 31: Fort Fisher, Aquarium, etc.
We have all-day and half-day trips planned to Fort
Fisher because these well-known hot-spots offer some
of the best winter birding on the North Carolina coast.
The ocean here is attractive to many birds because of
the biologically-rich hard-bottomed areas just off
shore. These trips also offer the chance to see winter
passerines around the fort area. At Federal Point
we'll look for grebes, shorebirds, terns, gulls, and raptors.
Kure Beach offers ocean views that may include
gannets, loons and all American scoter species. The
ocean here has seen rarities including grebes, alcids,
rare sea ducks, and possibly Purple Sandpipers.
(Restrooms available and restaurants. Driving and
- Trips 5, 23: Southport and Boiling Spring Lakes
This trip will include the ferry from Fort Fisher to
Southport so be prepared to pay the ferry fees. The
first stop with be The Nature Conservancy's Boiling
Spring Lakes Preserve, known for overwintering
songbirds, sparrows, and waterfowl. Red-cockaded
Woodpeckers and the other seven species of NC
woodpeckers are possible. Afterwards, we will return
to Southport and bird as many hotspots as time permits,
including the waterfront/marina area, Smithville
Burying Grounds, community ponds, and Shepard
Road area fields. These sites host overwintering and
resident raptors, sparrows, shorebirds, terns, and waterfowl.
The exact stops on this portion of the trip will
be dictated by Southport Christmas Count results.
(Restrooms and lunch spots are available)
- Trips 6, 24: Brunswick Nature Park, Orton Lake, Funston Farm, etc.
This route may offer Brunswick County's widest variety
of winter birds. Winter specialties at Brunswick
Town include Rusty Blackbirds, woodpeckers, owls,
and many species of overwintering songbirds. Up to
seven species of woodpecker plus American Woodcock
and Winter and House Wrens are possible.
Bald Eagle, Anhinga, and several varieties of ducks
and scoters are likely on the Cape Fear River or on
nearby Orton Pond. After the Brunswick Town stop,
we will drive through the Funston Farms area searching
for Eastern Meadowlark, Wilson's Snipe, American
Pipit, and sparrows. This trip will end at Brunswick
Nature Park on Town Creek where species observed
may include Golden-crowned Kinglet, Blue-headed
Vireo, and Fox Sparrow.
(Restrooms and lunch
- Trips 8, 14, 26 and 32: Wrightsville Beach & Piers
From Mason Inlet on the north end to Masonboro Inlet
on the south end, this trip features ocean and jetty
scanning for rarities. Targeted areas, observed from
the beach or end of Johnny Mercer's Pier, include the
legendary loon flock off the island's north end that
often extends to the pier. There are no guarantees, but
this flock has consistently produced write-ins on the
Christmas Count plus many rare winter bird sightings
with birds such as Pacific Loon, Thick-billed Murre,
Common Eider, Harlequin Duck, and Razorbill.
Shorebirds and water birds observed at the inlets and
jetties may include Purple Sandpiper, Piping Plover,
and Great Cormorant.
- Trips 9, 16, 27, 34: Airlie Gardens
Established in 1901, Airlie Gardens is a valuable cultural
and ecological component of New Hanover
County and North Carolina history. You'll have the
opportunity to view ten acres of freshwater lakes and
the grandeur of the 462 year-old Airlie Oak. Waterbirds
such as ducks, egrets, herons, kingfishers, cormorants,
and Ospreys are common. Watch for winter
passerines as you walk around the well-kept grounds.
On any given day it is easy to spot more than 30 species
of birds while traversing the gardens. Individuals
will be charged $5 for a grounds pass (the usual fee is
$8). (Restrooms available)
- Trips 10, 17, 28, 35: Greenfield Lake & Wilmington Winter Hotspots
Wilmington has many great winter hotspots! Following
routes that will include many sites on the Christmas
Bird Count, we will visit places such as Greenfield
Lake and Oakdale Cemetery. Each of the four
trips may follow a different route depending heavily
on what's being seen the week of the CBC meeting,
time of day, and rare bird sightings. Some of the best
birds regularly seen include Anhinga, Sora, Winter
Wren, Rusty Blackbird, and maybe a rare winter sparrow.
Expect extended walks, mostly on paved trails.
- Trips 11, 15, 29, and 33: Carolina Beach State Park
Carolina Beach State Park offers varied habitats and
birding opportunities. The land is slightly more than a
mile wide between the ocean and the Cape Fear River.
The state park's unique setting will have you scanning
the marina area to check out the Cape Fear River and
the Intracoastal Waterway. There are shrubby spots to
look for winter passerines. Waterfowl will be viewed
at freshwater pond sites. You may have the opportunity
for some ocean watching from the pier. With sites
close together, you'll spend a lot of your time birding
and less time driving between stops.
- Trips 12, 30: The Rail Express
This trip will begin early and the first stop is the marsh
area across the road from the Battleship North Carolina.
Target birds here are the elusive King and Virginia
Rails, and “the battleship” is one location where
they can consistently be heard, and if we are lucky,
seen. After working the area around the battleship and
the roadsides and woods in the area for passerines, this
trip will drive out River Road with stops along the
way. Eventually the trip will get to Fort Fisher where
we will look for other rail species including Clapper
Rail (expected) and Sora and Virginia. Rails are
tough, but that's what makes searching for them so
(Restrooms available, moderate walking)
- Trip 18, 36: Ev-Henwood Nature Preserve
This UNC-W property is a 174-acre preserve in northeastern
Brunswick County. Ev-Henwood features a
traditional southeastern floodplain forest and climax
hardwood community with two creeks and upland
trails throughout the property. Land management projects
underway include the establishment of longleaf
pine woods and some open grassy fields. Wild Turkeys
inhabit these woods and Barred Owls call from
the trees. We'll check the fields for sparrows and
ponds for waterfowl. There are easy walking trails so
once you arrive and park you will be enjoying nature
with no more driving.
(No restroom facilities on the
Wrightsville Beach Planning Notes
Field trips leave from the host hotel. Please arrive a
few minutes early so that we may depart on time.
We encourage carpooling to reduce the number of vehicles
on the road, and this also helps in parking at the
birding sites. If you are willing to drive and take some
old or new birding friends along, please let your trip
leader know when you meet. This will help minimize
the chances of getting separated on busy roads, ease
vehicle congestion at our trip destinations, and will
help to conserve gasoline!
On trips that involve ocean-watching or shorebirds, a
spotting scope may be helpful. If you don't have one,
don't worry, there should be plenty to go around, but
having your own may enhance your viewing opportunities.
Dress for the weather! Field trips generally run rain or
shine, so make sure raingear is part of your packing
Participants are encouraged to bring a packed lunch
and drinks on all-day trip outings as stops for food
may not be possible, or choices may be limited.
Field trips are generally applicable to all levels of
birders, from beginners to experts. If you are new to
birding, new to the area, or just want a little bit of extra
help during your trips, talk to your leaders. Leaders
are happy to assist in identification, “tricks of the
trade”, and other helpful hints. If you are hoping to
find a particular species on your trips, let your leaders
know beforehand so that they can be sure to try and
“get you on the bird”.