On October 18 the Wake Audubon Young Naturalist Club visited Bald Head Island for an afternoon of seining and walking the beach with Maureen DeWire, Director of the Bald Head Island Conservancy. The event was a lot of fun!
Our day began with a 7am departure from Raleigh. We drove down and arrived just in time to miss our 10am Ferry from Southport to Bald Head. That ended up being for the best because we had some good birding from the marina: White Ibis, Pelicans, and Double Crested Cormorants. We caught the 11am ferry over and rode by tram to the Bald Head Island Conservancy Education Center. We had lunch in the classroom surrounded by neat touchable items such as skulls and shells that everyone got to check out. After lunch, we headed to the beach. Walking to the beach, there were clouds of butterflies on the Camphor Weed and Goldenrod including a Long-tailed Skipper, which pleased our Piedmont based group as it is uncommon here.
Seining is where a long (in this case, 15 foot net) is slowly dragged through shallow water. We ran the seine three times, and found all sorts of neat things: juvenile Pompano and Kingfish, two varieties of crabs and a whelk egg case. While using our dip nets on the beach we found a sea star (which everyone got to let hold in their hand to see how the sea star’s many legs feel) an anemone, and a live cockle.
After some time in one spot, we walked on the beach to the Southeastern corner of the island. We found a large dead horseshoe crab, a founder, and a freshly dead sting ray. The birding was fantastic, and between the bird watchers 60 species were seen. Some of the highlights include: Blackpoll Warbler, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Western Willet, and three falcons: Kestrel, Merlin, and a very cooperative Peregrine Falcon that sat on the roof of a beach front home.
The wind picked up and we made our way back to the classroom, and spent the rest of our time on the island looking for Monarch Butterflies to tag. Though prior to our walk there had been many around, the sun had since gone behind a cloud and the butterflies had found shelter out of site. However, we still learned about some of the native plants on Bald Head such as Beautyberry and Wild Grape.
We caught the 3:30 ferry back to the island (a ride filled with goofy staring contests between the young naturalists) and uneventful return trip to Raleigh.
Thanks so much to Maureen De Wire, and leaders Ed Corey and Nathan and Greg Swick for their help in making this such a great day.