If you drive the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina south of the tourist mecca that makes up Nags Head and Kitty Hawk, you’ll eventually pass the Bodie Island Lighthouse and cross the Oregon Inlet.
Prepare yourself for the immediate and startling change of scenery. Thanks to early planners, several miles of the narrow peninsula have been set aside as a national wildlife preserve. The rental houses, motels, restaurants, tourist traps and gift shops vanish as you’re plunged into the natural wonders of sand and beach grass. On down Hateras Island you’ll encounter other towns with the trappings of civilization, but for these few miles of road you can enjoy the natural world of the OBX.
Bird and nature lovers shouldn’t be content with just driving through — park at the Visitors’ Center along Route 12 and walk the refuge.
Even on an off-season day — the lowest variety of birds are found in the summer months — we saw plenty to keep us there longer than we anticipated.
Turtles scurried from the banks to swim under the bridge and greet us:
What’s sad is that they’re probably not as much curious as they are looking for handouts.
Don’t feed the wildlife.
Even the turtles.
The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge covers many acres and stretches from the Atlantic Ocean across Route 12 to Pamlico Sound, with plenty of lakes and ponds in between:
After flicking away the nuisance gnats and pesty flying bugs determined to attack us as we made our way through the early part of the trail, we emerged on the open, grassy stretch that cuts between two large lakes on the refuge.
Birds were everywhere, and spotting some we hadn’t seen before — or don’t see very often — was easy. From Great Egrets…
to White Ibis…
to this gorgeous adult Tri-Colored Heron…
… we got an eyeful!
From the observation tower, we used the spotting scope to get a closer look at birds too far for our cameras to reach:
Seeing so many different species of birds co-habitating cooperatively…
…made us wonder, “Why can’t human beings share our resources and space as well as they do?”