Willet on the Kill Devil Hills Beach in winter.

Willet on the Kill Devil Hills Beach in winter.

Some people go beach combing looking for beach glass. Some look for shells. Driftwood calls out to others. Or maybe just the sheer enjoyment of being by the sea and walking on the sand.

And for other, it’s the birds.

There may be no other place that brings birds into such close and obvious reach to people. Maybe it’s that the gulls, willets and sandpipers have gotten so use to people that they hardly notice us in passing. There may be some entirely different explanation.

But there is no doubt that the one place that there are birds clearly to be seen in along the beach.

At first many of the birds just seem like, well, birds. Sure that bird with the skinny legs doesn’t look anything at all like a sea gull. But really, they’re just birds on the beach.

Beach combing birds to look for

After a while though, differences are noticed, that the seagulls are all different sizes. And that bird with those skinny legs…that’s a willet.

Willets are fun birds to watch. Sandpipers, too, which are sort of a chubbier, short version of the sandpipers. As the surf rolls in, they run to stay out of the roiling water, but hurry to the wet sand to peck at it, looking for a meal of sand fleas or ghost crabs.

Nothing at all like the gulls, which to anyone who has done some beach combing, they’re ubiquitous and not much for moving out of the way.

They do eventually, move, but they do take their time about it.

What’s becomes surprising after a couple of visits to the beach, is how many different kinds of gulls there are. Winter on the Outer Banks, most of them are ring-billed gulls. And that big gull seeming to tower over the others, probably a great black-backed gull.

And there is almost always one large clumsy looking bird in the middle of a gathering of gulls. There’s a good chance that’s a brown pelican, a bird that rarely lets people get close to it.

Pelicans may be clumsy on land, but the bird is magnificent in flight.

Beach combing is one of those Outer Banks activities that we probably don’t talk about enough. Most likely because it’s so relaxing it doesn’t even seem like an activity.

But it’s good for any time of the year…just like a visit to the Outer Banks and stay in a Brindley Beach Vacations home.