There are a lot of things going on in Wilmington and the surrounding area. May has arrived and people are preparing for the high season of visitors, Memorial Day to Labor Day. Downtown Wilmington is gearing up. A road project blocks quite a bit of the Riverwalk this week, along with a stretch of Front St. Across the river, the battleship North Carolina is getting ready, too, with a section covered by scaffolding and covers over the smokestacks. Presumably, all the work will be completed soon.
In contrast, we visited Southport, just under an hour’s drive south, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and they are already rolling for the season. Shops line the street leading to the fishing pier, and there was lots of parking available on the Wednesday we were there. Southport has a comfortable feel. Our arrival coincided with the first craft/farmers market of the season, and we looked at all the things on offer before moving to the shore. We strolled along the water, and along the sidewalk in front of the big houses that face the shore. Many of them appear to still be private homes–not all guest houses in this age of Airbnb. It was lovely to eat lunch overlooking the water at Oliver’s. Outdoor seating was available without a reservation, and the breeze kept us cool.
It’s not all shopping and strolling in Greater Wilmington, there are beaches everywhere. We still have many places to see. After Wrightsville Beach, we went out to Caswell Beach, at the eastern end of Oak Island. Beautiful water and waves, a long uncrowded beach with the lighthouse in the distance made for a pretty day. There isn’t much to collect in this area, but you can’t have everything. (The first photo of this post shows a willet on Caswell Beach.)
We headed due south to visit Kure Beach for their local festival where we watched a couple of very enthusiastic members of the ocean rescue group get doused in a dunk tank, to the enthusiastic laughs of the children dunking them, and their watching parents. It was a successful fundraiser. Beach restoration is in its final stages at Kure Beach. It’s a mess now, with machinery and a big plume of sandy water, not to mention the central area of the beach that is closed, but I imagine the idea is to get the work done by Memorial Day. What I don’t understand is how Kure Beach can be a turtle nesting beach and yet so heavily disturbed. I guess this is the fine line between pleasing the public (beach restoration) and slowing extinctions (efforts to let sea turtles nest).
Fort Fisher is just a bit further down the island. We drove as far as we could, then wished for a pedal car to keep going. Only pedestrians and cyclists can continue, and we did keep going, but the road continues for miles. The beach had shore birds along the edge and sea birds in the water. We never tire of watching pelicans and terns dive for fish. Osprey were fishing the area as well, hauling fish after fish inland to their nests. Beachcombing is limited. That is a good thing, in that there is very little trash on the beach, and signs everywhere reminding people to pick up what they bring to the sand. The down side is that there isn’t much flotsam and jetsam. Some places have pretty shells, like Wrightsville and Caswell beaches, but so far we have only one small triangle of beach glass from our wanderings.
Regular readers of my posts know that we enjoy birdwatching very much, but as charter members of the High Noon Birdwatching Society, we are not always out as early as the birds are. To improve our experience, we met up with a local Audubon Society group at Maides Park on a Saturday morning at 8 am. We are capable of getting up early, though usually only to meet a group. The park was pretty regular looking, but our leader, Miles, a student at UNC Wilmington, explained that for the North Carolina Atlas of Birds, updated every few years, this area needed to be reviewed. As is always the case, the group was welcoming, and birding in a group always seems to result in everyone seeing more birds than they might on their own. We saw birds new to us, the highlight being a bright red summer tanager that Miles managed to spot for us after hearing it. Our group ranged from old coots like ourselves to younger people, even a team of grandma, mom, and small son. He made it all the way around the route (only had to be carried a little bit). Several people had the huge camera lenses you need to get good bird photos, and they were quick to share the good pictures they got. We always enjoy these outings, no matter where we are.
The birders gave us good ideas for future walks, too. We already followed up on the suggestion of visiting Greenville Lake, a park right in Wilmington.