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Birding Trails

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Onslow’s Great Outdoors offers an abundance of opportunities to explore nature and discover many species of birds and other wildlife.  Birding trails are for the most part synonymous with getting out on our paddling trails which adds to an already exciting experience of being out on the water, whether it be along the New River or along our Intercoastal Waterways or at North Topsail Beach.  NC Birding Trails is one of the premier sources for birding trails across the state of North Carolina,  and is the source for the information provided here as well.  Take a peek at our paddling trails that have downloadable and printable maps for your convenience.

If paddling is not in your plans, charter a specialty cruise and ask any of our specialty cruise captains to let you know when they see birds that are common to our area.  Especially the osprey, which also shares their name with a military aircraft that is often seen making practice flights originating from the nearby Marine Corps Air Station.

Onslow County Cow Horn – New River Paddle Trail

This paddle trail begins near Richlands and meanders down Cow Horn Creek, a cypress-lined black water creek, for 3 miles until it empties into the New River. Watch for beaver dams along the first few miles of the trail and tall limestone cliffs at the confluence of the New River. The trail continues south along the New River for nearly 15 miles to the city of Jacksonville. The river is narrow until the last 0.5 miles of the trail, which crosses open water. Depending on the season, paddlers will have chances to see and hear migrating and breeding species typical of hardwood riverine forests, including Wood Duck, Barred Owl, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Parula, and a variety of wading birds.

Site Specialties:  Prothonotary Warbler, wading birds

Habitats:  floodplain forest, river

Get Directions here.

A venture to Bear Island in Hammocks Beach State Park provides a unique opportunity to explore one of the most unspoiled and uninhabited barrier islands on the coast. Visitors must reach the island by ferry from the mainland visitor center or by private boat. The ride provides great views of marsh habitats, wading birds and shorebirds, especially at low tide. Painted Bunting may be seen near the boat dock on the island and a walk across the island to the ocean side will provide chances to locate birds in the beach and dune habitats. Once on the ocean side, turn left and walk about 1.5 miles to Bogue Inlet, where both migrating and nesting shorebirds can be seen seasonally. Rent a kayak to explore Huggins Island, which offers excellent opportunities to see shorebirds, wading birds, and maritime forest birds.

Site Specialties:  Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Black Skimmer, Painted Bunting, wading birds

Habitats:  maritime forest and shrub, salt marsh, beach and dune

Hours:  7 days a week, 8 am to 6 pm

Get Directions here.

Stump Sound Park is a brief but productive stop to make while birding in Onslow County. A short loop trail, approximately 0.25 miles in length, begins just before the tennis courts on the left. The trail passes through longleaf pine forest with a dense midstory. Watch for Great Crested Flycatcher, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Prairie Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat. Another nature trail, approximately 0.5 miles in length, begins just after the tennis courts, on the right-hand side of the road behind the playground area. This trail is marked with interpretive signs and passes through similar habitat.

Site Specialties:  Great Crested Flycatcher, Brown-headed Nuthatch

Habitats:  pine/hardwood forest, longleaf pine forest, isolated wetlands

Get Directions here.

This site offers both beach and sound side access. On the sound side, watch for Painted Bunting during the breeding season, in addition to Seaside Sparrow, Eurasian Collared-Dove and White Ibis. The beachside offers opportunities to see migrating shorebirds such as Red Knot and Dunlin. Black-bellied Plover is also a possibility in all but the summer months. During the fall, watch overhead for migrating hawks. In winter, look for Common and Red-throated Loons, Horned Grebe and Northern Gannet just offshore.

Site Specialties:  Red-throated Loon, Horned Grebe, White Ibis, Seaside Sparrow, Painted Bunting

Habitats:  maritime shrub, salt marsh, beach, and dune

Hours:  7 days a week, 8 am to 8 pm

Get Directions here.