May 9th, 2019

Our initial plan for this trip was to spend a few days in Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware, but that all changed when the weather forecast for Delaware was nothing but rain for the days we planned to be there.  So, not wanting to miss our time away, we put on our thinking caps and decided to head south to North Carolina, our favorite state to visit.  Our plans included a stop in one of our favorite towns in NC, Oriental and then a trip south to Wilmington NC.  Oriental is a great little town and known as the sailing capital of North Carolina as there are more boats per capita then there are people.  We were turned on to this little town by a good friend years ago and try to get back as often as we can.  It is a small town but filled with warm and caring people.  A great place to visit when you want to unwind and just unplug for a while.

Airlie Gardens, Wilmington NC

After a one night stay in Oriental, we decided to head south about two hours to another favorite place, Wilmington North Carolina.  What initially drew us to this city was a local gardens we wanted to check out, Airlie Gardens.  Airlie Gardens is a 67 acre facility that features many walking paths, formal gardens with seasonal blooms, many mighty Airlie oaks including the famous nearly 500 year old Airlie oak, a butterfly garden, ten acres of lakes, historic structures and a wildly diverse variety of wildlife.  All this beauty right on the east coast of North Carolina only 2 miles from Wrightsville Beach.  Since our initial visit to Airlie, we have found that it is one of the best places in North Carolina to visit if you love to photograph wildlife, especially birds.  During the afternoon, the many species of birds come in, sometimes in great numbers, to the lakes in Airlie Gardens right around low tide.  These birds include green herons, great and snowy egrets, great blue herons, tricolored herons, yellow and black crowned herons, white ibis, mute swans, cormorants and various species of ducks.  In addition to these shore and wading birds, many raptors are also constant visitors to the gardens.  We have seen many osprey, red tailed, coopers and sharp-shinned hawks.

Our plans were to spend two nights in Wilmington, giving us a couple days to spend at Airlie Gardens and possibly check out other parts of the city.  While spending our first day at Airlie Gardens, we ran into another photographer (his name was Tom) that asked if we had ever been over to Wrightsville Beach.  Being unfamiliar with the area and not really doing any other research like we should have outside of Airlie, we had no idea the beach was so close.  Tom suggested we get out there if we have time, getting to the beach early so we can check out the nesting terns, skimmers and oystercatchers.  That sounded like a really great idea to us, and since the beach was so close we planned to get up early and head over there the next day.

Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington NC

During the months of May and June, the south end of Wrightsville Beach is the home of nesting least terns, black skimmers, american oystercatchers, common terns and willets.  These birds settle here after their long journey from the wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America to nest and raise their young.  It was a great experience to see these birds in action.  Their interaction while trying to find a mate to their regular trips to the water to hunt for a meal was amazing to see.  Between watching the birds and the amazingly beautiful weather, we could not have asked for a nicer first visit to Wrightsville Beach.

We had such a good time at Wrightsville Beach, we ended up extending our visit by one day so that we could squeeze in one more morning trip to the beach and another trip to Airlie Gardens.  It was another amazing trip to Wilmington, North Carolina.  Until next time…