Nineteen birding enthusiasts ventured to the restored habitats of North River Wetlands Preserve in Otway on the cool and sunny morning of Feb. 26 to get up-close looks at the birds that flock to the peaceful preserve.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Birding at the Preserve program gives participants the unique experience of checking out the waterfowl and other birds that use the preserve as a natural resting stop in the winter months.

“There’s always been an interest to use this restored land for birding,” said Rachel Bisesi, coastal education coordinator. “Over 240 species of birds have been identified at the site, so we were really excited to open it up and allow visitors to observe and appreciate all of the wildlife that call the preserve home.”

John Fussell, advisory board member for the federation’s central regional office in Ocean and JoAnne Powell, board member for the federation and leader of the federation’s birding cruises, led this program.

“Over the three hours, we stopped at about eight spots that included open fields, wetlands, the barn area, ponds, ‘the mountain’ — where we can get an idea of the size of a nearby farm — and one of the federation’s restored marshes,” Powell said.

A great blue heron. Photo by Sam Bland

The group identified 35 different bird species, including great blue herons, savannah sparrows, snipes, white ibis, glossy ibis, blue-winged teal and hooded mergansers.

North River Wetlands Preserve is a 6,000-acre tract of farmland that the federation and its multiple partners, members and community volunteers have been working to preserve and restore back to forested, freshwater and tidal wetlands since 1999.

This program was free for federation members, making this a unique member benefit that gives federation supporters the opportunity to take a walk through one of our coastal properties while appreciating the wildlife that call the preserved land home.

The federation’s next birding program will be a birding cruise led by JoAnne Powell on April 9 — register here or call 252-393-8185 for more details.