January 25, 2009

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher - An Excellent Bird Watching Destination

KURE BEACH – Many species of land- and ocean-based birds make their homes on or near the state’s barrier islands. Bird-watchers who travel to the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher are assured the chance to watch the many native coastal birds that live in the area year-round, such as pelicans, terns and gulls. In the winter, avian visitors to the area include cormorants, gannets and loons.

As part of the N.C. Birding Trail, the aquarium and surrounding historical and recreation sites offer an excellent way to spend the day exploring a variety of bird habitats, in both developed and undeveloped areas. Along with the trails at the aquarium, the Fort Fisher area offers birders approximately 2,000 acres of undeveloped beachfront, coastal forest, dunes and tidal marshes. As a prime stop on many birds’ migratory paths, Fort Fisher offers visitors the chance to see a large variety of migratory and native bird species.

painted buntingA painted bunting feeds in site of the birding deck at the N.C. Aquarium's memorial garden.

Visitors will see many common migratory and coastal birds, plus some rare seasonal visitors like the painted bunting, whose migratory path never strays far from the coast. Endangered birds like the piping plover, a species with an Atlantic population of around 1,400 pairs, nest in the Fort Fisher area.

Favorite bird-watching sites at the aquarium include a lovely Memorial Garden and a recently completed bike path that winds through a maritime forest. Both areas include freshwater ponds, which attract many kinds of waterfowl and wading birds. There are also trees, shrubs and other plants that provide cover and forage for birds of many kinds.

The N.C. Birding Trail connects prime bird-watching paths across the state. Along with the trails at Fort Fisher, the system includes 14 additional locations in Brunswick and New Hanover counties and dozens more in surrounding counties.

The mission of the North Carolina Birding Trail is to connect recreational facilities across the state under a single banner. The Trail seeks to give birders access to dozens of private and public marked trails across the three regions of the state. Efforts to develop the trail began in October 2003 and the trail is currently being developed for the coastal plain.

The N.C. Birding Trail is sponsored by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission with assistance from the Weyerhaeuser Company Foundation, the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, Audubon North Carolina, the N.C. State Parks, Sea Grant North Carolina and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For more information, visit http://www.ncbirdingtrail.org.
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