I took some time off from birding in the Piedmont last week and headed to the Ocean Isle Beach and Sunset Beach area of Brunswick County. I know many folks from this area choose to vacation in the same area, and some are interested in spending at least a little bit of time looking for birds and other wildlife.
A species that that is often a target for visiting birders at the coast is the painted bunting. This bird is one of the most brightly colored and gaudily plumaged songbirds in North America. They are fairly common in the coastal scrub just beyond the dune line at many beaches in southeastern North Carolina, and become more common into South Carolina.
I was able to locate several singing males at the east end of Ocean Isle Beach, so if this is a bird you would like to try to see, I recommend this spot. First-year males do not have the bright plumage of full adults but will do a lot of singing, so you may have to search out several singing birds before you find a full adult. Listen for a high-pitched, sweet warbling song in the small tree and shrub thickets.
Another nice bird to look for is the wood stork. I was able to watch several small flocks of these large waders on the flats at the east end of the island during low tide. Viewing the flats from Ferry Landing Park is a good strategy for finding these birds.
You can also check the pines around the large lakes on N.C. 179 between Sunset Beach and Calabash during high tide for these birds. While you are there, look also for common gallinule, anhinga, and other large roosting waders in the trees.
If you happen to be near the Ocean Isle Beach pier at dawn or dusk, look for a pair of common nighthawks skimming over the vacant lots nearby. They have some chicks, so they are very active.
Enjoy your vacation time at any of our beach destinations and remember to notice the birds.