Ducks swimming by reeds at Pamlico Sound.

Ducks swimming by reeds at Pamlico Sound.

One of the most wondrous things that happens on the Outer Banks is the annual return of the migratory waterfowl.

There will probably never again be as many as once flocked to the Outer Banks sounds. That was in the 1870s and 1880s. Maybe even to the turn of the 20th century. Yet what happens every year just about this time is an amazing aerial spectacle, followed by rafts of redhead filling the waters. And mergansers elegantly paddling by the reeds on a shore.

On Pea Island the migratory waterfowl are particularly evident. Simply drive along any of the impoundments next to NC 12. At times there are so many swans on the water, it looks as though snow has fallen.

Duck season for hunters is about to begin in North Carolina. It’s a tradition that goes back for generations and generations. And, of course, there are the visitors that come to our shores to experience the legendary hunting of the Outer Banks.

It can never again be like it was—for a lot of reasons. There can be little doubt that over hunting during the heyday of the hunt club era contributed to the decline in migratory waterfowl.

That, though, is an oversimplification. Dredging in the sounds destroyed the subaquatic vegetation that duck, geese and swans require. Loss of habitat as more people came to know, love and eventually build on the Outer Banks.

Overall, though, we’re not doing a bad job of managing the many waterfowl that stop by the Outer Banks in their annual flight. Numbers fluctuate year to year, but generally there has been an increase in the number of birds settling in our estuaries, ponds and sounds.

Planning on coming to the Outer Banks for a stay with Brindley Beach Vacations this fall? Bring your camera and some binoculars.