Saturday, July 17, 2021

Biodiversity, Birds, & The Outer Banks

As I mentioned in my previous post, we vacationed this summer in Duck, North Carolina. A trip planned in February when the future of the pandemic was still unknown and a driving getaway vacation seemed like the best plan. Mountains last year in New Gorges River, West Virginia; beach this year in the Outer Banks.

I've never been to Duck, nor the Outer Banks in general. I've been reading about this "ribbon of sand" of barrier islands in a book in our rental house entitled Duck: An Outer Banks Village by Judith D. Mercier. Printed in 2001, it is 20 years out of date; however, given it's a historical "biography" of the town, it's only omitting the last 2 decades. History is history, and it's been interesting learning about Duck's and seeing in the pages some of the places we have already been. 

Additionally, Duck is a designated bird sanctuary. Approximately 400 bird species have been seen in and around this part of the the Outer Banks and their waters. The variety of habitats such as tidal flats, ponds, salt ponds, grass beds, shrub thickets, and maritime woods--plus other factors including the barrier islands becoming a good "stopping spot" when winds and weather hit--makes it a perfect spot for a bird sanctuary, indeed. Additionally, it's part of the migratory waterfowl's Eastern (or Atlantic) Flyaway, making it another reason for birds to stop and visit, especially in the spring and fall. Ironically, the only thing using the duck blinds out in the sound are the migratory birds!

Not far south of Duck is Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1938. It too is a "nesting, resting" sanctuary spot for migratory birds and other animals, including the endangered Loggerhead sea turtle.

Darn it, why did we forget the binoculars!

Interestingly, Twiddy (the rental company we got found our vacation stay through), has an amazingly extensive Birding Guide to the Outer Banks of coastal North Carolina birds of the barrier islands. Featured on that page along with the slew of native birds to this area are 20 bird facts featured in infographics.

Another excellent resource on birds is The Cornell Lab's online portal "All About Birds." Using this, I think I've determined that my white diving fisher birds are Northern Gannets. They do make a dramatic plunge!!

Of course, I can't mention Cornell's Bird Lab without mentioning Merlin--their birding app. I had to move this one to a more prominent spot on my phone and make sure to add the US: Southeast Bird Pack!

From Mercier's book mentioned above: "Today, ornithologists and ecologists value ospreys as an indicator species. These birds help gauge the general well-being of an area's ecosystem and the health of its waterways" [page 249]. Despite the growth of development in both Duck and all of the Outer Banks aver the last several decades, the fact that we have these bird sanctuaries and the variety of biodiversity bodes well for the area. Just as we have seen eagle populations grow and flourish over these decades, ospreys have too

All of which brings me back to the osprey nest I've been watching here from our back balcony at Duck. As quoted from Judith Mercier's Prologue [pages ix-x]:

"A pinch of earth separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Currituck Sound. Generations ago, a meager band of seafarers, fishermen, and duck hunters settled this area of North Banks land. They and their families built a small community, a neighborhood sheltered by the oaks and pines growing atop the sand hills. Today thousands of summer tourists visit the same place, a bantam village they know as Duck.

Duck constitutes barely 2 percent of the land area of North Carolina's Outer banks. Virtually hidden until the early 1980s, the village and its inhabitants enjoyed several centuries of solitude and anonymity."

Yes, traffic was a bear on Duck Road when we arrived. However, once landed, like the nested ospreys I'm watching, you understand why. The Northern Gannets know why. And probably so do the other 300 or so species. 

Duck is certainly a good spot to nest and rest. 

Quotes from Judith D. Mercier's book: Duck: An Outer Banks Village, map from, all other pics from my camera and compiled in

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