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Birding Virginia Beach and other fun outdoor activities to check out while there!

Since my house is about the same distance to Virginia Beach as it is to the NC coast, I decided to take a trip there to explore some of the local birding spots and use the Virginia Beach Get Outdoors Pass. It is free and offers many deals and discounts on many local outdoor adventures and activities in the Virginia Beach area. Day 1: Our first adventure was a visit to First Landing State Park. The park offers 19 miles of hiking trails that traverse through various habitats: cypress swamps, salt marshes, maritime forests, freshwater wetlands, dunes, and 1 1/4 miles of bay shoreline…perfect for birding! There are trails for everyone, of all abilities, and the opportunity to see a variety of birds like herons, egrets, warblers, woodpeckers, and various songbirds, as well as other wildlife (we came across 2 Northern Watersnakes). We checked out the Osprey Trail and look forward to going back soon to check out the other trails. I couldn’t find a trail map online but you can ask for one at the guard gate on your way in. After First Landing SP, we went to see Cape Henry Lighthouse. We couldn’t do much birding since you are very restricted on where you can go due to the fact you are on an active military base but we enjoyed seeing the two lighthouses. As a retired teacher, I always like to enjoy a little history while traveling. […]

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Boy Did I Finally Find the Snow Geese!

Over the course of winter 2020 I tried many times, all unsuccessfully, to see the Snow Geese that winter along our coast each year. Hundreds of thousands waterfowl call the coastal region of North Carolina home each winter, so how hard could it be to see them? The odds were in my favor! I kept seeing sightings on eBird of hundreds if not thousands of Snow Geese in a few areas that I was going to visit and just knew I would get to see them! I couldn’t have been more wrong. I got up several mornings before sunrise to be in place for their arrival; they must have known I was waiting and changed their plans because I never saw one Snow Goose! This year, I hoped to see them but after last year’s luck was hesitant. My first Snow Goose sighting was in late November at Pocosin Lakes NWR. There was a huge flock of them on Pungo Lake, but they were all the way across the lake. Surely that wasn’t the only look at Snow Geese I would have this year! Was it? After my time at Pungo Lake, I headed to the coast for a few days of birding, surely I would see some at Pea Island! Not a single Snow Goose the entire trip to the coast! But luck was on my side on my next attempt! I saw them! And then I saw them […]

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Birding Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina

One of my favorite birding sites is Huntington Beach State Park, just south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. There is so much to see, over 300 bird species have been spotted here, that I can spend days walking and taking pictures. As a matter of fact, I do that just about every time I am there…sunrise to sunset if I can! I love starting my morning watching the sunrise over the marsh or walking along the beach watching for early birds. You never know what you’ll find and every season brings different birds. My favorite section of beach to bird is North Beach. I always head north since it is a bird sanctuary. A few of the birds I have found while walking along North Beach are: Sanderlings, Willets, a few different sandpipers, and possibly my favorite beach birds…American Oystercatchers and Piping Plovers. Many of these birds are endangered and thanks to preserves and state parks along the coast like HBSP they have a safe place to breed and raise their young. Remember if you come across any nesting birds to give them space and never cross the roped off area. Nesting birds are under enough stress, we don’t need to cause them more. If you watch in between the waves as you walk you might see Brown Pelicans, many different terns and gulls, and in winter you’ll more than likely see some Common and Red-throated Loons along with some […]

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My love for Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve

One of my favorite places to be outdoors is Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve which is located just 90 minutes south/southeast of me near Southern Pines in North Carolina’s Sandhills area. The Sandhills region is a series of sandy ridges and wide flat valleys. The preserve was established to restore and maintain a portion of the unique longleaf pine forest; it is made up of about 900 acres of longleaf pine forest. It is a fantastic spot for birding and wildlife viewing with over 7 miles of trails winding through the long leaf pines. My first trip down to Weymouth Woods was back in 2018 with my youngest while she was on Spring Break. We were looking for a new place to explore and this place sounded ideal. We were not disappointed! The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect and the trails were calling. Besides looking for a new place to explore and get some exercise in, I had also just read about the Red-cockaded Woodpecker and was secretly hoping to see one but since they are endangered I figured my chances were slim to none. Upon arriving, we went in, checked in with the ranger and got a trail map. I have to admit, I could not have timed this any better if I had tried…upon exiting the Visitors’ Center I was met with another Park Ranger who asked if we were looking for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker and […]

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My quest to see a Pileated Woodpecker…

Pileated Woodpeckers have fascinated me since I started birding. They are commonly sighted in one of my favorite birding spots, Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve near Southern Pines, NC. I have made the trip down there with my oldest several times and we fell in love with the area (more on Weymouth Woods in another post soon) and the preserve. It truly is one of my happy places. With each trip down there, I would have high hopes of seeing a Pileated! But it wasn’t until I was able to convince my husband to accompany me on a trip down that I finally got eyes on not one but 3 of them! I had been wanting to show him the area for quite some time; to me it has the potential of being our forever home when he finally retires. We didn’t get on the trails as early as I had hoped since we drove around town for awhile so he could see the area. He loved the area as much as I did! We hiked around the preserve on many of the trails and saw many birds, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Robins, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, to name a few. We spent a few hours looking and enjoying the day but still now Pileated Woodpecker. We decided to give up, head back to the car, and start for home since it was starting to get dark…it was January after all. As […]

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Going way back…

My little brother came into town yesterday, we only had a few hours together but it was so good to see him. I hate that we live on opposite sides of the country. We spent time talking with our dad about our mom and it got me thinking of an old photo of her that I hadn’t seen in years so I’ve been digging around trying to find it but I keep coming up empty. I did, however, find few old gems that I didn’t even know existed! Ready to go back to the 70s? I can’t believe I am actually sharing these but I’m sure we all have photos that should never see the light of day. On the left is yours truly, with my first camera! That was a family trip we took in 1976…a road trip from Southern California to Memphis, TN for a family reunion. I remember that trip fondly. It was back in the day before mandatory seatbelts. My dad had traded cars with a coworker so we made the trip in a big, old van! My brother and I spent the trip playing in the very back of it, getting truckers to honk at us and all the other things one used to enjoy on long road trips. On the right is one of my first photos. I actually don’t even know why my dad kept it, I certainly wouldn’t have. It is from […]

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My pursuit to see Sandhill Cranes…

Ever since I started seriously birding a little over a year ago I have wanted to see Sandhill Cranes. There was just something about them that drew me in. Maybe it was their adorable colts or all the pictures I had seen of the large numbers that congregate in Nebraska during their stopover while migrating? Whatever it was, something bit me and I knew I had to see one! So imagine my excitement when I started hearing about seven of them right here in North Carolina! They weren’t that far away – I mean I can get to either end of the state in under 4 hours. I quickly started to devise a plan and was even able to convince my youngest (19 years old and not terribly interested in birding) to accompany me on this adventure. We set out early for Pocosin Lakes NWR, more specifically Pungo Lake, and spent the next 3 1/2 hours talking about school and life, just catching up (sure do miss her when she’s not around). I’ll admit, we were also hoping to find some of the large black bears that call the refuge home…but no luck! We were, however, greeted by thousands of Tundra Swan and 7 Sandhill Cranes! I actually squealed with delight when I saw them! Mind you, when I have a target bird I am not always lucky enough to find it so I tried my hardest not to get […]

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“The Bluebird carries the sky on his back”

I just love this quote by Henry David Thoreau! The bluebird is such a bright, beautiful shade of blue and always seems to evoke a smile from me, even when I am feeling down. It’s as if he really carries the Carolina blue sky on his back. They have been a favorite bird of mine for years. I had seen them around our neighborhood for years before ever seeing one in my own backyard. I remember that day vividly! I was so excited that three of them had landed in my tree but they didn’t stick around long enough for me to get a picture of them. They would return every once in awhile but never with any regularity even though I put out mealworms for them. But finally during the spring of 2019 a pair of them decided to nest in my backyard. My husband put up a nice Bluebird nest box for them, they checked it out and decided to move in. The female got to work and started building her nest over the course of about 10-14 days, and I would sneak out while she was gone and check on her progress. One day while checking on her progress I discovered a bright blue egg, one more the next day and each day after that until there were 5 beautiful blue eggs in the nest. Then she would sit on the eggs while her mate brought her […]

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