Pea Island Wildlife Refuge NC 2008

Bonner Bridge from Pea Island

Bonner Bridge from Pea Island

Pea Island Wildlife Refuge is located at the northern end of Hatteras Island in North Carolina. It can be reached from Nags Head via Highway 12 crossing the Oregon Inlet via the Bonner Bridge.

Pea Island Wildlife Refuge

In a normal winter the refuge is home to large numbers of snow geese, tundra swans, white peelican, and numerous other species of migatory birds. In 2008, for some reason, the numbers of various birds were much less that we expected. "Experts" at visitor centers and our motel blamed to low number of birds at Pea Island and other locations in North Carolina on milder than normal winter in the north, the draught that North Carolina experienced in 2007 and early 2008, and almost anything else you can think of. No one was really sure why, but it was clear the the number of birds, especially large birds such as Snow Geese and Tundra Swans was much lower than usual.

Tundra Swans

It's interesting that although we found that the number of tundra swans and many other birds was very low in 2008, The Drinking Bird Blog found large numbers of swans at other North Carolina refuges.


We did find large numbers of ducks, especially Redheads. One lady in the visitor center was overjoyed to see the Redheads. Said she'd been looking all over for them. The Readheads stayed more or less in the center of the various ponds, so we couldn't get a good picture of them.

Sleeping Swans

Tundra Swan with Ducks Taking Off

We found a few Tundra Swans. But nothing like the numbers we saw in 2007. We often saw single birds instead of large flocks. And the noise of the swans was totally missing.

White Pelicans

White Pelicans

White Pelican Flying

White Pelicans were the big hit on this trip. Several people at the visitor center were quick to inform us that the White Pelicans were on the water. The White Pelicans are impressive birds. They look like 747s compared to the ducks and other smaller birds.

White Pelicans and Ducks

There were other birds at the refuge as well. Neither my wife nor I are birders. We enjoy watching the birds in our backyard and looking at the birds when we travel. So we don't pay much attention to what kind of bird we're looking at.

Small Heron Fishing

Abandoned Coast Guard Facility

Sand covered abandoned coastguard station

Shortly after you leave the Bonner Bridge and get on Pea Island, you encounter a group of buildings that the sand is slowly covering. This is an abandoned coastguard facility. It looks like this was once quite a place. Several building and a large parking lot. I suspect that the sand will have fully covered the place on our next visit.

Visit our photo gallery for more photos of Pea Island.

Abandoned coastguard station