Pea Island Bird Migration: Why I Admire Birders

Flight of cormorants

Travel Destination: Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Our November trip to the Outer Banks to experience the bird migration exceeded our expectations. We are not birding experts (not even close) although we are always fascinated to experience nature in full swing. In this case, the bird migration did not disappoint. The big difference between our trip last year, when we accidentally happened to be camping at Oregon Inlet in November, and this year: we brought along a knowledgeable birder. Our niece, Laura Spencer, was quite good at identifying the multitude of different bird species we had the privilege of seeing. She was keen on traveling with us because birders make it a point to travel in search of the opportunity to view new species and complete their checklists. I learned that birdwatching is more of what we do – watching birds when we happen to be in a good birding location.

filming migratory birds on the beach near Oregon Inlet Cape Hatteras National Seashore
David filming migratory birds

Why I Admire Birders     

Birders, unlike birdwatchers, are much more knowledgeable, disciplined, thoughtful, and patient about their birding activities. They develop skills in identifying species by looking at physical characteristics (what we birdwatchers do) but then patiently wait for the bird to move in telltale ways, sing, fly, or otherwise present characteristics that distinguish the species from others that have similar features. At least that is my take on the process I’ve observed from watching my niece. When you are lucky enough to have a birder with you during a bird migration it is like having a translator in a foreign country. 

a person birding at the seashore
Laura identifying birds at the seashore

I learned there are many different species of terns, pipers, plovers, ducks, and pelicans just to name a few. I have a deeper appreciation of the diversity in the population of migratory birds than I would have otherwise (without a birder to explain it). I was so impressed, I asked Laura to be a guest blogger because I knew that she would do a much better job at fully capturing the experience than me. Click here to see her blog post “Birding at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge”.   

white pelicans and pintails at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
White pelicans and pintails at Pea Island NWR

North Pond Wildlife Trail and Mountains-to-Sea Trail

We enjoyed observing the migratory birds while on the North Pond Wildlife trail at Pea Island NWR. The trail starts in an interesting tunnel of small trees/bushes and leads to an observation deck with 360-degree views of the surrounding wildlife refuge. From the viewing platform, you can see the North and South Ponds and thousands of migratory birds. 

a view from the north pond trail at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island
North Pond trail “tunnel” at Pea Island NWR

Across the road from the NWR visitor center, on the ocean side of the preserve, is the Mountains-to-Sea trail. We found that the birds tend to visit the seaside in the early morning so we made it a point to get up at sunrise and head to the beach. Lucky for us, the birds would tend to fly north up the coast over Oregon Inlet and our campground! 

migratory birds along the beach at sunrise near Oregon Inlet Caper Hatteras National Seashore
Migratory birds at sunrise

Camp: Oregon Inlet Campground

One of our favorite places to stay in the Outer Banks is Oregon Inlet campground at the northernmost part of Hatteras National Seashore. The campground is situated on the beach side of the inlet. The bridge over the inlet takes you to the north end of Hatteras Island, the location of Pea Island NWR making this campground the perfect location.

a campsite at Oregon Inlet campground Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Camping in the dunes at Oregon Inlet

We enjoyed our time at Pea Island and will return soon. November in the Outer Banks turned out even better than we expected!

One response to “Pea Island Bird Migration: Why I Admire Birders”

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