Weekend Roadtrip #8: Fly to the Beach!

The North Carolina Birding Trail: Coastal Plain Trail GuideAs an editor at UNC Press, my professional rhythms are mostly dictated by the academic calendar. So with colleges and most public school systems in North Carolina quickly getting back to business, I often have to remind myself that summer is still going strong. And the great news for those of you who aren’t bound to the school year–and even those who are–is that our state’s fabulous beaches have a lot more open space in this stretch of the year between mid-August and mid-September. So with Glenn Morris’s terrific guide, North Carolina Beaches, in hand, no time like the present for you to join me in a quick flight down I-40, U.S. 70, or U.S. 64 to your favorite spot for sand and surf.

Speaking of flight, if you love this state like I do, you probably know that North Carolina’s coast isn’t just special for its beaches. It’s also one of the world’s premier destinations for birding. Whether Wrightsville, Atlantic Beach, or Ocracoke is your favorite spot, chances are you’re within a short drive of a great place to see a terrific diversity of resident and migratory birds. In partnership with the North Carolina Birding Trail, UNC Press is proud to distribute the North Carolina Birding Trail: Coastal Plain Guide. The coastal guide is the first of three regional guides to a trail that highlights the state’s best birding locales; the Piedmont guide is available now as well, and the Mountains guide will be published in the summer of 2009. The slender guides offer easy-to-use introductions to the sites along the trail and the species you’re likely to find there. So if you plan to hit the beach in the next few weeks, grab a copy of the Coastal Plain Guide and toss it in your bag or glove box. And if you want a fuller introduction, we’ve got you covered with John Fussell’s classic, A Birder’s Guide to Coastal North Carolina, and the authoritative reference guide to the birds of our state, Birds of the Carolinas, co-written by James Parnell, Eloise Potter, Robert Teulings, and Ricky Davis. (By the way, birding only gets better in the fall and winter months, highlighted by the 12th Annual Wings Over Water Birding Festival, held along the Outer Banks from November 4-9, 2008.)

For our late-season trips, our family tends to visit Wrightsville Beach because it’s an easy drive from the Triangle. Six of the 102 birding sites in the coastal guide are just minutes from downtown Wilmington, and one–Mason Inlet Waterbird Management Area–is right there on the north end of the beach. A 300-acre sanctuary, the Mason Inlet area offers a great spot to see not only the familiar gulls and pelicans but also Wilson’s plovers, American oystercatchers, least terns, and black skimmers, to name a few. Aububon North Carolina, one of the six partners responsible for the NC Birding Trail, sponsors weekly birding walks through September.

So who says summer’s over? So why not soak up some sun and add to your life list at the same time! Happy travels.

— Mark