Cormorants, Great Cormorants, Terns, Gulls, Loons, Gannets, a Jaeger. Seen in a half day birding expedition on the major birding points in Wrightsville Beach: Masonboro Inlet on the South End, Mason’s Inlet on the North End, and Johnnie Mercer’s Pier in between. It’s a small beach, just one road. You can make your way from one end of the island to the other end of the island in about 7 minutes. It is 4 miles long.

Adjusting the world to your binoculars takes practice. Audubon recommends that you have an 8 or a 10 for birding. The binoculars I had were on the scale of 9 and once I got my aim down during the sunrise from Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, I was able to zoom in on a Loon even with the breezy north wind dropping the temperature down a few degrees. There was an Ibis flying over the ocean. Pelagic birds floating on top of the waves or soaring through the sky, they were looking for fish. The thrill of seeing a bird up close through binoculars or a telescope is finding that little bit of yourself in the way the Loon dives or the Cormorant stretches out his wings on the sandbar to let them dry out in the sun.

View from the North End; Figure 8 Island across the way:

Jetties on the South End:

Johnnie Mercer’s Pier:

The trick with birding is to wait and watch. As Martha Stewart advised on her blog: make a game out of it! And many birders do just this. If you ever hear a birder talking about their numbers they are referring to how many different species they’ve caught through their binoculars or telescope.

For catching the herds on the sand bars at the north end, the birders’ telescopes came in handy for getting the close ups.

Our Birds of a Feather Package, fast becoming a Valentine’s Day/February tradition on Wrightsville Beach, includes a cruise with Captain Joe Abbate, our resident ornithologist, of Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours. Captain Joe Abbate takes you on a discovery through the natural bird habitats local to Wrightsville Beach. Captain Joe is interested in fostering local environmental stewardship through outdoor educational adventures. “My hope is to increase environmental awareness and understanding for everyone enjoying the Cape Fear region.” Leaving from our Soundside docks, the topics explained during the boat ride are a great introduction to birding in our area, covering the fundamentals: salt marsh function, wetland plants, and shorebird/water bird ecology and identification.


Local photographer Jeffrey Karnes captured the Northern Gannets in a recent fluke sighting: Gannets diving for fish close to the shore. Usually staying a half mile or more away from the shoreline, the Northern Gannets in Karnes photographs were close enough for him to get some tight shots of their distinctively marked black tipped wings. Known to have done an Audubon social media takeover, Karnes is also a moderator on Nuts About Birds and Planet Birds. Check out his own Instagram for more great pictures of birds.

Can you spot the Loon? Hint: you may need your binoculars.