Black Bear Central at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

A black bear resting at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.
A black bear resting at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

Every once in a while we’ll get a notice or something will come across our desk that is a reminder of just how remarkable the world of the Outer Banks is.

In this case, it’s not quite the Outer Banks, but awfully close. Right next door at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

The Refuge, it seems, has one of the largest, if not the largest, concentrations of black bear on the East Coast. Perhaps one of the largest populations to be found anywhere.

For those of us who have driven on US 64 as it passes through East Lake, which borders ARNWR, it’s probably not much of a surprise hearing this. It’s not as though a bear is seen every day, but it is not that rare either. Same for US 264 through Stumpy Point.

For that matter, anyone who has hiked, kayaked, biked or spent any time in the Reserve, seeing a black bear is a part of the experience.

By and large the bears want nothing whatsoever to do with humans, so when they do see one of us, they saunter off into the brush or woods. To our civilized eyes they look kind of cute, and certainly harmless, but the fact is they are wild animals weighing between 200-400 pounds with a lot of muscle. 

About the only time they will get upset or approach humans is if there is interaction with cubs. Mama bears tend to think of that as a threat.

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is 152,000 acre refuge that is for the most part on mainland Dare County. There are hiking and biking trails in the refuge as well as extensive areas for kayaking. 

It’s name is a reference to the northern most reach of the alligator, so yes, there are alligators that live there, as well as an extraordinary diversity of birds and an active breeding program for the endangered red wolf.

The Outer Banks is a place of many surprises. A visit to this remarkable strip of sand is better with a stay at a Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates home.

Living Shoreline Takes Shape along Moor Shore Road

Planting marsh grass at the Moor Shore Road living shoreline.

Living shorelines are becoming the new wave of shoreline protection. On the Outer Banks we’re seeing more and more of them being put into place.

They are not as quick, easy or cheap to install as a bulkhead, but they have some significant advantages over hardened structures. Mostly, they don’t wear out.

More than they don’t wear out, they actually restore and renew the nearshore environment of sounds and estuaries.

They are also very effective. Over time, much more effective than a bulkhead.

One of the largest living shoreline projects on the Outer Banks is on Moor Shore Road in Kitty Hawk. The project began late last year in November when sills were put into place about 60’ from the shore.

Funded with grants obtained by the North Carolina Coastal Federation, the project is now wrapping up with a few hundred volunteers planing marsh grass. 

It’s somewhat tedious work. Small plugs of grass—in this case juncus—are put into the ground, either just under water in the shallows or along the beach where it’s wet.

The plugs look a lot like plant starts, which is what they are. If there are no extremely high winds over the next few weeks, the grass will be well on its way to being a permanent part of the environment.

The sills, which look solid from the shoreline, actually have slits in them to allow wave energy to be dissipated. What the marsh grass will do is further dissipate that wave energy so that waves do not overwash the shoreline and Moor Shore Road.

The marsh grass is also a favored habitat of a number of breeding fish and will help to maintain healthy levels of seafood.

There is always something interesting happening on the Outer Banks. Stay a week or two with Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates and discover the world of life on a sandbar.

An Outer Banks Sanctuary Takes the Lead

High waters of the Currituck Sound at the Audubon Sanctuary docks in Corolla.
High waters of the Currituck Sound at the Audubon Sanctuary docks in Corolla.

The Pine Island Hunt Club is now the Donal C. O’Brien Audubon Center in Corolla. At one time it was one of the premier hunting lodges on the Currituck Sound, it’s holdings stretching from the Currituck Sound to the Atlantic Ocean.

Before NC 12 connected the Currituck Banks with the rest of the world, to drive to Corolla, everyone had to pass through the guard gate at the south end of the property. The guard house is still there on the south end right on the Dare/Currituck County line.

There’s a wide, hard-paced path that used to be the dirt road everyone took to get drive north. It’s a wonderful walk now, and perfect for any bike that has fat tires.

Forty years ago it was donated to the Audubon Society by the Slick family, the last owners of the property. For the past 10 years, Audubon has been solely responsible for maintaining the grounds.

The administrative center is in a beautiful old building—the 1913 clubhouse. 

There was a gathering at that clubhouse recently of northeastern North Carolina elected officials, representatives of the Governor and Audubon North Carolina executives.

It was an interesting meeting, bringing together a variety of ways of viewing how and what government should do. But what was particularly interesting was the agreement—not consensus, but agreement—that concerted action was necessary to mitigate rising waters.

It had rained very hard the day before the meeting. The ground was saturated and at the docks where kayak tours are launched, Currituck Sound had flooded the road leading to it. 

Robbie Fearn, Sanctuary Manager explained what was happening.

“One of the big challenges that has really not been addressed about barrier islands is that you have the ocean coming up on one side and the sound on the other side. The water table sits on this pocket of salt water underneath. As that come up, every time it rains, like it did buckets last night, that water has no place to go,” he said.

To mitigate some of those effects, Audubon will be being a very large living shoreline project on the property soon. Other plans were also discussed that will keep the facilities viable for some time.

The Outer Banks is a beautiful place to live or visit. Come stay with us at Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates and discover for yourself what life on a sandbar is all about.

Whales, Sharks Swim Past Outer Banks

Hal, a 12'6" great white shark named after the people of Halifax, Nova Scotia is tagged by an OCEARCH scientist. Hal recently pinged off the Outer Banks coast.
Hal, a 12’6″ great white shark named after the people of Halifax, Nova Scotia is tagged by an OCEARCH scientist. Hal recently pinged off the Outer Banks coast.

It’s migration time out in the Atlantic Ocean off the Outer Banks. We had some whales—probably humpback—feeding within 100 yards of the Kitty Hawk shoreline on Monday. Over the weekend, three tagged great white sharks pinged a few miles off the coast.

it’s a typical pattern of life in the sea. There’s a tendency to think of sea life as relatively stationary, living in one area for their lifespan

That however, is not the case. Many, if not most, species of fish and mammals that live in the ocean are migratory.

Humpback whales migrate in the winter to the Caribbean to mate and give birth. That’s a two migration cycle. The humpback whale gestation period is 11 months so females breed one year, returning the following year to give birth.

The whales seen off the Outer Banks coast at this time of the year, are returning to Maine, where scientist have determined most of the East Coast humpback whales live.

The sharks that pinged offshore were tagged by OCEARCH, an organization that has has made a science of studying and tracking sharks The shark names are  Jefferson, Cabot and Hal, All three were tagged in 2018 off Nova Scotia.

Like humpback whales, great white sharks are highly migratory. Although they have some ability to withstand cold temperatures and water, they are a cold blooded species and prefer warmer waters—which is why they left Nova Scotia and headed south.

As ocean temperatures rise, they head north to the fertile feeding grounds off the Canadian maritimes.

The sharks are all male and range in size from 9’8” to 12’7”.

Don’t worry though…the waters of the Outer Banks are safe. Stop by for a visit with Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates.

Outer Banks Surf Report-Excellent Conditions Everywhere

Near perfect conditions greated Outer Banks surfers this weekend.
Near perfect conditions greated Outer Banks surfers this weekend.

A Great Day–And Week–To Be On the Water

We must have done something right to please the Surf gods here on the Outer Banks because for the past week we have just about ideal surf conditions… and today was no exception.

And it looks as though those conditions are going to continue for the next few days.

The hotspot for the northern Outer Banks—north of Oregon Inlet—has been Jennette’s Pier for sometime. It’s fun just watching the surfers, and what seems to make a day like today truly special is how many are in the water—by our count somewhere around 35 at mid afternoon—and kids from seven to 70 having a great time.

Jennette’s Pier is not the only place on the Outer Banks with great surf conditions. Actually when were checked the reports and from what we heard, form Corolla to Ocracoke conditions have been about as good as they get. Even break on the waves, water temperature just right and mild daytime temperatures.

Of course there’s a lot happening on the Outer Banks this week, not just the surfing.

The Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival has kicked off and will run through Saturday. For jazz music fans, the Duck Jazz Festival is happening Saturday and Sunday with Sunday being the big day…the day all the acts share the satage.

And get ready for next weekend as the inaugural Mustang Rock and Roast kicks off up in Corolla. Mostly music, organizers are taking two-and-a-half out of the show to show their appreciation for two local culinary delights. On Saturday its an oyster roast and on Sunday there will be a barbecue cookoff.

This week though, and if the forecast holds, has really been about surfing and some of the consistency best conditions we have seen in a while.

Fall weather is spectacular on the Outer Banks . Come check out how great it can be at Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates.

Perfect Weather Creates Perfect Opportunity to Explore Outer Banks

Sunny weather and a beautiful sunset over Kitty Hawk Bay.

Sunny weather and a beautiful sunset over Kitty Hawk Bay.

It looks as though the weather gods are going be blessing the Outer Banks with some beautiful sunny days and mild temperatures for the next week. This is certainly the time to get out and enjoy some beautiful fall days.

There is so much to do, that we can’t list everything, but here are some suggestions.

Hop in a kayak

The biggest complaint about kayaking on the sound, or any open water, is the wind. All the forecasts that we have seen for the next few days call for light winds, making for idea conditions to paddle around the sounds.

Take a Hike

We know that hiking on the Outer Banks may not be the first thought when coming for a visit, but there is much more to the area than many people realize. There are four maritime forests preserves on the Outer Banks—Currituck Estuarine Reserve, Kitty Hawk Woods, Nags Head Woods and Buxton Woods. All of them offer a very different side of the area that is worth knowing. Or head over to Alligator River on the mainland for a very different experience.

Climb a Lighthouse

Best bet in this case would be the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla. No reservations are needed to climb it, but check in with the National Park Service on the status of Cape Hatteras Light and Bodie Island Light as well. The view from the top is always spectacular, but when there is not a cloud in the sky, the view goes to a whole new level.

Take a few minutes to check out the Sunset

Relax…breathe deeply and take 10 minutes to do nothing but watch the sunset over anyone of our sounds. It will be 10 minutes very well spent.

Take a Walk on the Beach

It sounds cliched, but there is nothing quite like walking on the beach on a perfect autumn day. It’s something the is good for all the senses and is particularly good for the soul. Just about any beach will do. And make it a long walk.

Anytime of the year is a great time to visit the Outer Banks. Check out our listings at Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park-An Outer Banks Hidden Gem

The view from the  top of a dune on the north end of our hidden gem--Jockey's Ridge State Park.
The view from the top of a dune on the north end of our hidden gem–Jockey’s Ridge State Park.

Discover the Unexpected at Jockey’s Ridge State Park

There are, throughout the Outer Banks unexpected finds–a hidden gem, if you will. Places that may be a bit more difficult to get to, but getting there is worth every bit of the effort.

Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head is one of those places.

There may be a hue and cry going up right now, saying, “Jockey’s Ridge? A hidden gem?”

That’s reasonable—Jockey’s Ridge itself is the highest natural sand dune on the East Coast. It’s the home of the oldest and one of the largest hang gliding schools in the United States. And it may be the finest place anywhere to fly a kite.

So it’s not like no one knows about it.

Yet away from the hang gliding and the kites, there is a whole other world waiting to be explored.

Some of the remarkable characteristics of Jockey’s Ridge are visible at the end of the boardwalk from the Visitor’s Center.

There is, depending on how much rain has fallen and how recently, either a large swath of damp sand with a heavy growth of grasses or a pond that extends almost to the base of Jockey’s Ridge. The pond is called a vernal pond and it is created when so much rain water seeps through the sand that pressure on the underlying aquifer forces water to the surface.

There is a nature trail that leads to Roanoke Sound. By all means take the trail. Also take water. It gets hot.

The soundside of the Park includes a small dense maritime forest that has taken taken root in the protection of the dunes. The contrast of the verdant, damp feel of the forest with the stark, seemingly sterile sand of Jockey’s Ridge is startling.

Or take the path less traveled and head north, to the right after exiting the boardwalk.

The northern edge of the vernal pond is considered a maritime thicket, but for the past three years there has been higher than normal rainfall in the summer and is taking on more of a forest feel with larger trees with heavier foliage.

The north end includes a series of steep dunes with a different feel from the rest of the park. A bit of an effort to climb, but worth work to explore a hidden gem.

From Corolla to Nags Head, Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates & Associates has a home perfect for your vacation needs.

Fulgurite-Lightning Captured in the Sand

Fulgurite at Jockey's Ridge State Park, Nags Head.
Fulgurite at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Nags Head.

Fulgurite a Delicate, Intricate Shape of Lightning

The Outer Banks week is looking like it’s going to be a bit stormy for a couple of days. The forecast doesn’t look too bad toward the end of the week though.

With the storms, if there is lightening, comes the possibility of a remarkable phenomenon—fulgurite.

Created by lightning when it strikes the sand, fulgurite may be more common than we realize, but finding it seems like a rare event.

There are probably a couple of reasons why it is seen so rarely. Knowing what to look for is a big part of that. Shaded slightly darker than the surrounding sand, it seems to blend in almost as though it was hiding.

But it is not just that it is difficult to see or identify—that fused piece of sand is often very fragile.

How it is formed is what makes it so intricate—the interior often looks like a delicate, small glass cave— and so delicate.

For one incredibly brief moment when lighting strikes the sand the air can actually be hotter than the sun. Silica, the ingredient that gives the Outer Banks sand its soft, fine feel, immediately melts and fuses into a rock-like substance. As it cools beneath the surface the silica continues to melt and reform.

The outside of the fulgurite is hardened, but extreme heat is so great that it vaporizes the sand inside, hollowing out the interior of the fulgurite. The melted sand on the outside tends to be thin and very fragile.

Interestingly there are two places on the Outer Banks where fulgurite tends to occur and the it is slightly different at the two locations.

The sand on Jockey’s Ridge is finer and does not have the shell material found on the beach. The fulgurite formed at the park tends to look almost like the tip of a lightning bolt and has a cleaner, smoother surface.

Fulgurite formed on the beach will often have shells encased in the exterior and if the lightning strikes wet or damp sand, the shape will be altered dramatically.

There are two places on the Outer Banks that have fulgurite collections. The collection that Jockey’s Ridge State Park has is small, but some excellent examples

The Outer Banks Beachcomber Museum on the Beach Road in Nags Head has a remarkable collection of beach fulgurite.

Our Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates. beachfront homes are perfect for beach combing.

Outer Banks Safety Tips for a Great Vacation

When the red caution flags are flying, please don't swim in the ocean.
When the red caution flags are flying, please don’t swim in the ocean.

For very good reasons the Outer Banks is one of the most popular places for families to visit. Fantastic summer weather, great beaches and the ocean is usually a great place to go swimming.

But usually is not always, and there are some days when going in the ocean is dangerous. We call them red flag days because there is always a red flag with no swimming printed on it in bold letter when it’s not safe to go in the water.

The red flags are almost always raised because of the threat of rip currents. Sometimes the surf is so angry that the red flags will go up, but especially in the summer, it’s rip currents.

What is a Rip Current

A rip current is a channel of water that is flowing out to sea.

What causes a rip current are the natural fluctuations in the seabed.
Waves break on sandbars. The sandbar does not have to be particularly high to cause a wave to break, but it does have to be higher than the seabed directly seaward of it. If there is a gap between the sandbars, there will be nothing to cause the waves to break there and as the water flows out, it will naturally flow to that channel.

Because there is no inflowing waves to disrupt the water that is being channeled out to sea, the outgoing water can gain considerable force—far more force that even the strongest swimmer can overcome.

Visually, rip currents tend to be somewhat deceptive. Because there are no waves in the area of the rip current, it often appears as the calmest stretch of water around. It is not!

Safety Tips

A couple of important things to know about rip currents—safety tips that we hope will never be necessary:

  1. Rip currents do not drown swimmers. People drown because they panic and try to swim into the current exhausting themselves.
  2. Do not panic. Swim either parallel to the shore or with the current. When the rip current dissipates, swim into shore.
  3. Rip currents are nearshore events. They only exist in the surf zone. No breaking waves, no rip current.

There are some safety tips that we would like to pass along.:

  1. Do not go in the ocean if the red flags are flying. In the summer, the red flags are almost always warn of riptides. The National Weather Service has gotten quite good at predicting them, so if the flags are flying please do not go in the water.
  2. Swim by a lifeguard.
  3. Go to the beach with someone or in a group.

Red flag days are fairly rare during the summer. Occasionally if a storm is passing offshore, there will be two or three days in a row, but for the most part it’s one day and then the flags come down. Take that day to go shopping or take in some Outer Banks history.

Here at Joe Lamb Jr., & Associates. we want your visit with us to be everting you hoped it would be. A little bit of caution will go a long way to making sure you and your family have a great time on the Outer Banks.

Spring Weather Brings Wonderful Beach Day

A perfect spring day on the Kitty Hawk beach.
A perfect spring day on the Kitty Hawk beach.

Warm Sand and Spring Weather Comes to the Outer Banks

Walking along the Kitty Hawk beach, on a perfect spring day is the perfect way to remember how special the Outer Banks really is.

The water is still pretty cold, and the few people who were getting in it had on wet suits, but that didn’t change how marvelous it felt to dig bare feet into warm sand, or to feel a very gentle breeze from the south caressing the beach.

There were beachgoers—nothing like summer, of course. But enough to be a reminder that summer is coming. Families were gathered around towels and chairs dug into the sand; the littlest children would squeal in delight as waves chased them up the beach…then they would run back again, each time just avoiding the 50 degree water.

If the humans seemed unwilling to get in the water without some form of insulation, the dogs had no such inhibition. Walking alongside their people companions on the beach, every once in a while somehow that lab or golden retriever managed to get into the surf.

Of course some of the humans did have wetsuits. The waves were small today and a father and son took advantage of that, the father teaching his son how to surf. As a wave came in, he would push the board and the boy would stand up.

They weren’t the only ones in the surf. A couple of skim boarders were playing in the waves—doing pretty well, too.

We’re going to have a couple of beautiful beach days this week. Thursday looks like it’s going to be cold and wet and maybe not so great, but then things seem to warm up again pretty quickly—at least that’s what the experts say.

We needed this. March was a tough month on the Outer Banks. Maybe not quite as cold and windy as farther north, but there was not a beach day in it.