It was a little chilly this morning, about 48 degrees, so we were glad to see the ferry was somewhat enclosed. Too bad this was not the boat they put us on!
Instead we were loaded onto a small open craft with a boatload of other people. Captain Mike was pleasant, and made a point of getting us out to the islands in good time, that is, he drove fast! We saw several dolphins on the way out to Shackleford Banks and he slowed down and circled around so we could get a better view.
Five from our group took this tour, Diana (right) and me above, and Tom, Kathie and Dennis below.
As soon as we got to Shackleford Banks we saw the banker ponies! I finally got to see them in the wild! Captain Mike told us that the ponies on these islands are not fed or vaccinated by the National Park Service, but they do remove some younger animals when the herd exceeds 110 and put them up for adoption.
We spent a good amount of time walking around looking at them--the rule is to stay 50 feet away from them, and we obeyed. Although Mike told us the NPS does not interfere with the herd of horses on this island, it appeared that one was branded on its left flank.
We walked down to the beach to pick up sea shells. What a beautiful place! We did not find any large shells, but later saw a woman who had 2 net bags full. She told us you have to wade into the water to find the larger shells. Wish I'd known!
There were a lot of birders on the island today. When we spoke with them we found out they were here to see one bird--they had heard through a network of birders that one bar tailed godwit was on this island, and they all flocked here to see and photograph it.
The bar tailed godwit is a European species, so it was indeed a big deal to see one. While here they also saw some marbled godwits, which are common in the southeast US.
The birders waited on shore while Captain Mike took us to Cape Lookout to see the lighthouse there. It was closed for the season, but we had a few minutes to walk around before getting back on the boat.
After we had our walkaround at Cape Lookout we circled back to Shackleford Banks to pick up as many of the birders as the captain could fit onto the boat. I spoke with Rob, who is a member of the Forsyth Audubon group. He said that after this they are driving to Rodanthe to see some Hudsonian godwits there, making it a 3-godwit day!
We met Bill, Fred and Doris back at the Cape Lookout Visitors Center and after lunch drove to Carolina Beach. It is beautiful here--I wish we could stay more than one night!