Tag Archives: birding

Getout! Your Friday Nudge for Weekend Adventure

We live less than a half mile from Occoneechee State Natural Area in Hillsborough, and I either hike or run there a couple times a week. Though I generally like to mix things up on trail I do regularly — hiking clockwise one time, counterclockwise the next — I have the same routine at Occoneechee: I enter from the neighborhood entrance off Eno Mountain Road, then take the Occoneechee Mountain Loop Trail, Overlook Trail and Chestnut Trail back to the Loop Trail, which brings me around the west side of the mountain to the Eno River for the hike’s highlight: a 75-yard stretch beneath a north-facing cliff that is perpetually green. Green with holly and ferns, which are common in these parts, but also with mountain laurel, with rhododendron, and even a narrow carpet of galax. For this brief stretch the trail leaves the Piedmont for the Southern Appalachians. read more

This weekend: winter curious?

Carolina Beach State Park along the Cape Fear River

The natural world presents many questions in winter. This weekend, you have a chance to learn many answers.

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When you head to the coast, hiking often isn’t atop your list of things to do. It should be, especially this time of year. The bugs are at bay (or at least at a minimum), the temperatures aren’t stifling, and, perhaps most significantly, it is serene, the calm before the summer crowds descend.

And because it is the more temperate coast, nature is more alive than it is in colder reaches of the state.

Take Carolina Beach State Park, for instance, where the park’s website states, “Several coastal ecosystems are present in the park. Forests dominated by longleaf pine, turkey oak and live oak occupy the dry, coarse soil of a series of relict sand dunes. Between the dunes are dense shrub swamps, called pocosins, populated by pond pines, loblolly and sweet bay, yaupon and evergreen shrubs. Brackish marshes consisting primarily of cordgrasses and sedges can be found beyond the relict dunes adjacent to the river.”

That’s a lot to take in on your own. Fortunately, the park periodically holds a Biological Wonderland Hike, the next one of which is Saturday. Let a ranger help you identify these adjoining ecosystems and understand how they interact. The hike begins at 2 p.m., from the Flytrap Trail Parking Area.

Logistics: Biological Wonderland Hike, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2 p.m., Carolina Beach State Park, Carolina Beach. More info here.

Saturday forecast: Sunny with a high of 70 at hike time.

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Looking ahead: U.S. Open Fat Bike Championships, March 11, Blockade Runner Resort, Wrightsville Beach. More info here.

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One of the joys of winter in North Carolina is that it serves as the overwintering grounds for a goodly number of waterfowl. Most folks think this phenomenon is limited to the coast, where tundra swans, northern pintails and others by the hundreds of thousands spend the mild coastal winter in lakes, marshes and other wetlands. But the interior of North Carolina also gets its share of feathered visitors.

Learn about these migrants as well as the native avian population Sunday on a Waterfowl Birding Boat Tour on Lake Townsend in Greensboro. A naturalist leads this hour-and-a-half tour conducted on a pontoon boat.

Logistics: Waterfowl Birding Tour, Sunday, Feb. 26, 3 p.m., Lake Townsend Marina, Greensboro. $7. Learn more and sign on, here.

Saturday forecast: Sunny with a tour-time temperature of 58.

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Looking ahead: Not a boat person? Take in the lake from the Palmetto & Nat Greene trails on a March 4 hike, also sponsored by Greensboro Parks & Rec. $2. More info here.

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Are you taking the North Carolina State Parks 100 Mile Challenge? Are you aware of the Challenge?

The Challenge is N.C. State Parks effort to get folks to hike 100 miles or more in their great parks during 2017. Log your hikes, complete the Challenge, get a cool commemorative pin. Learn everything you need to know about the challenge here.

Intrigued? Start your march toward 100 Sunday at Lake James State Park with the Fox Den Loop 100 Mile Challenge Hike. Ranger Kevin Bischoff leads this 2 1/4-mile hike to help you find out what the park’s permanent residents are up to in winter. Complete the hike and you’ll be 97 and 3/4 miles closer to meeting the Challenge.

Logistics: Sunday, Feb. 26, 11 a.m., Fox Den Lopp 100 Mile Challenge Hike, Lake James State Park, Nebo. More info here.

Sunday forecast: Hike time high of 49 under sunny skies.

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Looking ahead: Streamside Hike, March 18, South Mountains State Park, Connelly Springs. More info here.

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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below. 

Coast

CapeFearCoast.com
Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.

Coastal Guide
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of coastal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.

Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.

NCCoast.com
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.

North Carolina Coast Host
Comprehensive calendar for the entire coast that lets you search for events by day, by region, by county, by city or by event (based on key word).

This Week Magazine
Primary focus is the Crystal Coast (North Carolina’s coastal midsection).

Mountains

Asheville Citizen-Times
From the main page, click on “Outdoors,” then WNC Outdoors calendar.

Blue Ridge Outdoors read more

Your Weekend: Team run, color run, look — up in the sky!

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There’s a team run (5K or 10K, your choice) at the coast, a colorful run in the Piedmont and a run to register for limited space on a Lake James waterfowl tour.

Coast: St. Patrick’s Day Lo Tide Run

The 12th annual Steve Haydu St. Patrick’s Day Lo Tide Run on Saturday offers an intriguing twist for both the 5K and 10K: team competition. Each team must have five or more runners, teams will be scored based on their top five runners. The hardest part of this event could be coming up with a worthy team name; teams so far include Shaggers for a Cure, Love is Bald and Fat and Stinky. Registration lasts until the morning of the race, so you’ve got time.

Proceeds benefit people battling cancer who do not have the means to pay medical bills.

Saturday forecast: High of 68, low of 56 and cloudy.

Vital stats: 12th annual Steve Haydu St. Patrick’s Day Lo Tide Run, Carolina Beach Boardwalk, Saturday, March 12, 8 a.m.; $35m $40 race day, $5 discount for students and military. Contact Jasmine McKee at support@lotiderun.org. More info here.

Looking ahead: Little Explorer’s Nature Program, Halyburton Park, Wilmington, March 21-22, $3 registration fee, more info here.

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Piedmont: Color Me Green 5K Color Run at the U.S. National Whitewater Center

The U.S. National Whitewater Center is putting on a 5K with lots of prizes, some a little … unusual! The goal of the untimed race: to either get green, or stay clean. Awards to the top five overall male and female finishers, as well as the runner who manages to dodge the most green color, and the runner who dodges the least. Additionally, raffle prizes will be given to random runners during the race.

Once it’s over, stick around for the food and drinks, and USNWC’s 6th annual Green River Revival.

Saturday forecast: High of 72, low of 54, chance of showers.

Vital stats: Saturday, March 12, 10 a.m.; race day registration of $45, National Whitewater Center, sponsored by Novant Health. More info here.

Looking ahead: The Great Amazing Race Charlotte Adventure/Obstacle Course, $50 entry fee, March 19, more info here.

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Mountains: Waterfowl Boat Tour

Join Ranger Earl Weaver, renowned waterfowl expert aboard the Lake James State Park patrol boat to catch some feathered flyers as they migrate north for the spring breeding season. You will have the opportunity to see many ducks, loons, grebes, and other migratory birds as they flock overhead, enjoying some time in the park before they continue on their way. You might even see some otters or an eagle. Bringing binoculars wouldn’t be a bad idea if you have your own.

Friday forecast: High of 70, low of 53. Chance of showers.

Vital stats: Friday, March 11, 1:50 p.m., Lake James State Park, Nebo. Free. Starts from the Paddy’s Creek Area East Picnic Shelter. Contact: lake.james@ncparks.gov or call 828.584.7728 to make a reservation (trip is limited to eight participants). More info here.

Looking ahead: Meltdown Games, Appalachian Ski Mountain, March 28-29. More info here.

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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below.

Coast

CapeFearCoast.com
Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.

Coastal Guide
Comprehensive calendar including nature programs from a variety of coastal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs. Covers the entire coast.

Crystal Cost Tourism Authority
Comprehensive calendar focusing on the Crystal Coast. Good source for programs offered by N.C. Coastal Federation, Cape Lookout National Park, N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve and other costal conservation and research agencies that offer nature programs.

NCCoast.com
Comprehensive calendar including programs for the Outer Banks and Crystal Coast.

North Carolina Coast Host
Comprehensive calendar for the entire coast that lets you search for events by day, by region, by county, by city or by event (based on key word).

This Week Magazine
Primary focus is the Crystal Coast (North Carolina’s coastal midsection).

Mountains

Asheville Citizen-Times
From the main page, click on “Outdoors,” then WNC Outdoors calendar.

Blue Ridge Outdoors read more

This weekend: Learn a thing

1545_Piping_Plover_04-28-2008_0

Learn your shorebirds at the coast, learn your wildflowers in the mountains. Meanwhile, in the Piedmont you can learn a new stretch of trail.

Coast

Friday morning, our friends at the North Carolina Coastal Federation, along with Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours, are conducting a Coastal Birding Cruise. The one-hour boat ride, aboard The Shamrock, will explore the marsh and backwaters around Wrightsville Beach searching for shorebirds, from the pelican and black skimmer to (hopefully) the endangered piping plover (pictured). Guides will explain the area’s ecology as well. A great way to learn more about an area you may visit frequently, but likely don’t know well.

Logistics: Friday, April 3, 10 a.m., Blockade Runner Beach Resort Dock, Wrightsville Beach. $25-$35. More information: 910.509.2838 or visit here.

Friday forecast: High of 79, 20 percent chance of rain.

Piedmont

We love new trail and try to jump on a new stretch as soon as it opens. So we’re a little disappointed in ourselves for waiting more than a half year to investigate the 5-mile stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that opened last year linking West Point on the Eno city park in Durham with Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve downstream.

But investigate it we will, finally, on Saturday, with our GetHiking! Triangle group. We’ll meet at West Point at 10 a.m., shuttle to Penny’s Bend, hike upstream back to West Point. It’s a relatively flat stretch, this five miles that links 12 miles of the MST along the Eno upstream of West Point on the Eno, and 60 miles downstream, along Falls Lake.

Logistics: Saturday, April 4, 10 a.m. For details and to sign up, visit GetHiking! Triangle.

Saturday forecast: High of 64, a chance of showers early, then clearing.

Mountains

There’s something about the Smokies and wildflowers that shouts great spring weekend in the mountains. Which is why we’re giving a shout out (Is that still hip to say? Are we trying too hard?) to Sunday’s

Baxter Creek & Big Creek Wildflower Hike read more

This weekend: Learn, learn, learn

Tundra swans at Hammocks Beach State Park (photo courtesy N.C. State parks)
Tundra swans at Hammocks Beach State Park (photo courtesy N.C. State parks)

To everything there is a season — and in this season of winter, the thing is making sense of the natural world. Learn your birds at the coast, your amphibians in the Piedmont, your naked trees in the mountains.

Coast

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird —
Yes, but what kind?
It’s a question that perplexes many of us when we spy an avian friend flying overhead. And it’s a question you can find answers to Saturday at 9 a.m. at Hammocks Beach State Park. There, a ranger will lead the group in identifying and counting birds as part of the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. It’s a massive exercise in citizen science, as people around the country report who’s flying in and out of their backyards. Binos and bird guides available, bring your own if you’ve got ‘em.

Logistics: Saturday, Feb. 14, 9 a.m., Hammocks Beach State Park, Swansboro. Free, 910.326.4881if you have questions.

Saturday forecast: Sunny, high of 51.

Piedmont

When most of us think of looking for signs of spring, we think about looking for those first wildflowers of the year — your trout lilies, your tootworts. But really, it’s the amphibians that are the true bellwethers of spring.

Come celebrate the Year of the Amphibian and learn who to look and listen for in the days ahead at Sunday’s Crafty Critters program at Umstead State Park in Raleigh. Targeted to 1st thru 6th graders, everyone welcome.

Logistics: Sunday, Feb. 15, 10:30 a.m., Umstead State Park, Raleigh. Free, but space is limited; call 919.571.4170 to score a spot.

Sunday forecast: Mostly sunny, high of 30.

Mountains

Our look-and-learn theme continues, at Grandfather Mountain with a Winter Tree Identification Hike.

Anyone can identify an oak when it’s in full leaf; how about after winter has stripped most of our trees of their ID badges? That’s when we need a guidebook and a savvy ranger to help us distinguish a sweetgum from a sourwood, a sumac from a sassafras. What better place to identify trees than along the base of the Profile Trail on Grandfather’s west flank?

Logistics: Sunday, Feb. 15, 1 p.m., Grandfather Mountain State Park, Linville. 828.963.9522 to call and confirm if weather is an issue.

Sunday forecast: On the plus side, it will be sunny. It will also only get up to 16 degrees.

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Those are our thoughts on the weekend. Find more options at the sources listed below.

CapeFearCoast.com
Comprehensive calendar for the Cape Fear/Wilmington/southern N.C. coast searchable by date and event name.

Coastal Guide read more