The wildlife on these Outer Banks is one
of the great attractions for visitors. There are wild
horses which have roamed here since the earliest explorers
and shipwrecks. Sea turtles come ashore to lay eggs, and dolphins
play in the sounds. Monarch butterflies swarm through the area
migrating to south Florida and beyond. Migratory birds come
and go, taking advantage of the myriad of wildlife refuges and
protected park areas all along North Carolina's coastline.
Dolphins are a popular interest for Outer
Banks visitors. Bottlenose dolphins can be found in
the ocean and sounds
along the Outer Banks. Some places offer dolphin cruises that
give you a good chance to see dolphins while enjoying a pleasant
boat ride. Normally these cruises are only available during
the summer tourist season.
three photos above were taken from the beach at Cape Point,
Hatteras, in late February. This group of Dolphin was spotted
moving south just off the beach south of the lighthouse. They
made their way around the point and frolicked in the cove just
west of the point.
If you are lucky, you may spot dolphins
while on one of the ferrys. These two photos were taken about
sunset, while crossing Pamlico Sound on the Cedar Island ferry.
Several dolphin were spotted surfacing
south of the ferry, then north of the ferry, then back south
again. Then they seemed to disappear for a few minutes until
someone spotted them riding the ferry's bow wave. The ferry's
forward deck extends several feet out over the bow, so the bow
itself is not visible, even when leaning as far as possible
over the railing. But by pre-focusing his camera, and holding
it at arms length over the side, the author was able to capture
a shot of one dolphin as it shot out
of the bow wave to take air.
Osprey photographed near the Whalehead Club, Corolla,
brings home a fish.
question, the most visible wildlife on the Outer Banks is certainly
the bird population. Gulls, terns, geese, ducks, pelicans,
egrets, cranes, plovers and other shore birds are a constant
presence. The many songbirds flitting about in the pine forests,
shrubs and marsh grasses of this coastal habitat are a bit less
noticeable, unless you are paying close attention, but they
are plentiful and varied. In fact, coastal North Carolina, with
its plethora of protected wild habitats, is one of the hottest
spots in the world for bird watchers.
are quite plentiful, usually seen skimming the waves and diving
for fish. Sunrise can be a great time to watch their graceful
moves, and sudden kamikaze dives. They will often hang around
fish cleaning stations at piers and marinas, scavenging the
leftovers from fishermen's catches.
Gulls and terns
are everywhere, of course. If you throw bread crumbs, or Cheerios,
or other such edibles into the air behind the ferries, or at
a marina, you can draw a flock of them like a magnet. But before
you do that, consider the visitors around you. Some folks aren't
as fond of gulls as others. They can be boisterous, noisy and
obnoxious, and so can the gulls.
Great Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons,
Little Egrets and Snowy Egrets are plentiful as well. The herons
are more difficult to spot than the Great Egrets, and seem less
inclined to hang around where there is human activity. It is
a common sight to see Great Egrets and Little Egrets feeding
in marshy ditches along roads, seemingly quite indifferent to
the traffic which passes by them.
plovers, sandpipers, avocets, ibis and many other kinds of shore
birds abound here. Many ducks and geese winter in the protected
habitats afforded by national
and state refuges and parks all along the coast. Pea Island
National Refuge is a good place to view wintering species.