Seasonal Outer Banks Visitors
The Outer Banks, while home to many natives and local residents, is also a mecca for visitors. Some guests follow their instinct and come here when an overwhelming feeling or need drives them to do so. Other guests follow tradition and flock here each fall or winter, enjoying the cool weather, stark beauty, and solitude of the beaches. Most visitors travel to the Outer Banks during the ever-popular summer season. However, regardless of when or why visitors frequent our barrier islands, they all have identifiable characteristics and special charm.
Our most unique seasonal visitor comes to us from out of the Atlantic. Did you know we are home to endangered sea turtles? Our barrier islands mark a northern range for five types of sea turtles. A typical nesting season is May - August, but most adult turtles, eighteen years or older, nest only once every two or three years. A turtle crawl (unique sand tracks some say resemble a tractor tread) indicates a sea turtle has nested, or has crawled about looking for a place to nest, or has crawled around trying to mask the location of her nest. The average nest is around 20 inches deep and holds up to 150 eggs; however, experts estimate that only 1 in 1000 hatchlings will survive to maturity. Adult Loggerhead turtles, the most common species found on the Outer Banks, can grow to be more than 3 feet long and weigh around 400 pounds. The adult Leatherback turtle, the rarest of the Outer Banks species, can grow to be the size of a Volkswagen Beetle!
There are several things you can do to help us protect these special visitors to our beaches. First, of course, if you are fortunate enough to see a turtle, a turtle crawl, a nest site, or hatchlings, please do not approach or bother them. Turn off any outside lights (including flash photography) as lights may cause a nesting turtle to abandon her task, and will cause hatchlings to turn away from the ocean and, hence, die. Be sure daytime sand structures have been leveled and holes filled in, and remove beach furniture, so that these obstacles don’t become nighttime traps for turtles or hatchlings. Dispose of any litter found on the beach so turtles don’t mistake these items for food, causing harm or death if eaten. All sea turtles are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, so please report any sightings to N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) at 252-441-8622.
One of our most popular visitor groups also comes to us via the Atlantic, but is just as frequently seen in sound waters. The bottlenose dolphins in our area are a sure-to delight attraction whether seen from shore or boat. Research indicates many of the dolphins along our shores stay here through our warm-water winters then go to northern beaches for the summer; while many of our summer dolphins migrate south to Beaufort, North Carolina, for the winter. This Outer Banks/Beaufort group is one of the few groups of Atlantic coast dolphins that is both migratory and studied year-round. Photographs reveal fin markings unique to each dolphin so that individual dolphins can be identified by their dorsal fins. The Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research catalogs these pictures as part of their study of our area’s bottlenose dolphins.
As an observer, you can usually determine the dolphins' activity by their movements. Dolphins that are simply traveling are all headed in a definite direction and surface at regular intervals. You can usually look ahead to determine where they will surface next, so have your camera or binoculars ready. Dolphins that are feeding are constantly changing direction, location, and speed as they attempt to keep up with fish they are pursing under water. Dolphins that are socializing, or just having fun, will splash, roll over each other, and sometimes leap completely out of the water. An unusual, but spectacular sight is a group of dolphins riding a wave in close to the shore. For more information about bottlenose dolphins or other area water life plan to visit the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
Another group of seasonal visitors to our area arrives by air. Our barrier islands are located along the Atlantic Flyway and are a stopping point for hundreds of species of migratory birds. Bird watching is a year-round event in this area, with the greatest variety of birds seen during the spring and fall migrations. There are several well-known places for birding: Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, Bodie Island, Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve, and Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary, among a few; but, since you may spot a feathered visitor from anywhere you happen to be, again, keep your binoculars handy.
Our area is especially well-know for its influx of ducks, geese, and swans. In fact, during the late 1800's many hunt clubs were built here and the area became a popular destination for waterfowl hunters. The famous Whalehead Club at Currituck Heritage Park still stands as testament to the era when waterfowl hunting was a passion on our barrier islands. This 21,000 square foot edifice originally (early 1920s) was built as a private sound-front cottage. Today, it is indeed a treat to see snow geese and majestic swans afloat on the winter water behind this elegantly maintained historic site. You may want to purchase a memento of a special sighting at one of many bird stores in our area.
If you are here during the summer season, you are sure to witness pelicans flying in formation along the coast line. Watch as they skim the surface of the water teasing waves by dipping their wings to the crest yet remaining just out of reach of the water. Also, during the summer you will see many types of shorebirds, including several species of sea gulls. Additionally, be on the lookout for that powerful fish hawk – the osprey. Usually, you can sight osprey nests -- huge beds of sticks and grass -- atop the telephone poles that stand along side the Wright Memorial Bridge. Such nests are also visible atop tall poles erected specifically for the purpose of assisting returning ospreys, and atop barren tree trunks, and even giant buoys. Tennyson's "The Eagle" may come to mind as you witness one of these raptors dive for a fish: "And like a thunderbolt he falls."
The most beloved visitors to the Outer Banks arrive by land, sea, and air and visit in each season of the year. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and can be seen just about anywhere on the Banks. Frequently, they are identifiable by an aura of excitement that causes some of them to jump and squeal in a delightful frenzy of anticipation. Sometimes, especially when encountered in a grocery store or on the Bypass, their excitement is tempered with a vague look of confusion or indecision. Most often they are attired in beach or resort wear; a typical outfit may be shorts and t-shirt, or bathing suit and cover-up. While inclement weather tends to herd them into stores and shopping centers, on sunny days they are most often seen on the beaches where they may laze alone or play in spirited groups along the shoreline. They help maintain the integrity of our area by cleaning up behind themselves at the beach, by staying off the dunes, and by being patient with and respectful of other visitors and local residents. If you spot any of these seasonal guests looking for a comfortable vacation home, please remind them that it's easy to find a JL home at www.joelambjr.com, or have them contact Joe Lamb, Jr. and Associates at 252-261-4444 or 800-552-6257.
252-261-4444 / 800-JLambJR / 252-261-3270 (Fax) / firstname.lastname@example.org