Sunday, April 14, 2019

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Outer Banks, North Carolina

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937. It's located on Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on the Pamlico Sound side of the Island. The Sound is relatively shallow throughout, averaging 5 to 6 feet from the island to the mainland (about 15 to 20 miles) and is about 80 miles long. We did not see many birds or wildlife when we took the trail to the lookout point, except for a couple of Canada Geese. So most of the pictures are taken from the brochure and inside the Visitor Center.

Pea Island is midway on the Atlantic Flyway and is a much used and valued feeding and resting area for numerous species of wintering waterfowl, migrating shorebirds, raptors, and wintering wading birds. It is considered a "birder's paradise." 

Marbled Godwits and Willets
The Outer Banks bird list boats over 365 species. Thousands of Canada and snow geese, tundra swans and 25 different species of ducks winter on the refuge each year. Throughout the summer months, several species of herons, egrets, and ibises find safety and trees and shrubs for nesting along the sound. Terns, gulls, black skimmers, willets, black-necked stilts, as well as other wading and shore birds next on the refuge.

Atlantic Flyway


Brown Pelican
The one non-bird species we found were turtles, and huge ones to boot. They were in the small pond under the bridge that leads to the path to the tower.

Osprey also inhabit the Refuge, although we did not see any and there was only one small nesting site. We saw a lot of osprey in Florida where nests have been built on top of telephone poles. But one thing I did not know was that in the 1970s when DDT was widely used, the DDT weakened and thinned the eggs to the extent that the mother's weight crushed their own eggs. The osprey accumulated the DDT by eating contaminated fish, and the pesticide had concentrated in their bodies. Since its ban in 1972, DDT levels in the environment have begun to decrease and the osprey population has been able to recover. The osprey population on the Outer Banks is still recovering but they are not out of danger as there are newer pesticides being used now.

Snowy Egret

Snow Geese
Canada Geese

Pea Island Beachscape
The Pea Island Visitor Center offers interesting exhibits of shorebirds, birds of prey, and other native wildlife. It also offers a picture window and scope overlooking the North Pond so one can view the birds. 

American Oystercatcher

Black-necked Stilt

Black Skimmer


Peregrin Falcon
Water levels in impoundments are seasonally manipulated by opening and closing water control structures in concert with pumping and wind tides at the right times of the year. This mimics the optimum proportion of dry and wet periods found in natural wetlands and encourages maximum food production. Timely flooding in the fall produces optimum feeding grounds for wintering waterfowl. Timely drawdowns of the water in the spring produce optimum feeding grounds for migrating shorebirds.

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