Snow Geese at Pea Island.

Snow Geese at Pea Island.

There’s snowy owl that seems to have taken up residence on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge for the winter. It’s very rare to see one of them this far south.

The name is apt. Its white feathers are snowlike. But the reason the raptor is so rare in North Carolina is the natural habitat for the species is the tundra of Canada and Alaska in the summer. And then the southern Canada and the norther tier of the United States in the winter.

We visited Pea Island the other day. Sorry, we didn’t see a snowy owl. But what we did see were thousands of migratory waterfowl.

There were dabbling ducks, but they were a little too far offshore to get a good look at which one. A quick at the pattern of the feathers were the duller shades typical of female ducks. Maybe a northern pintail, but we weren’t close enough to be certain. There may have been a couple of mallards in the mix as well.  Mallards are common in many places, but generally they don’t like brackish water, so if they were mallards, that would be something different.

We also saw a couple of tundra swans, drifting along so gracefully. One of the most beautiful birds imaginable.

Mostly, though, there were a lot of snow geese. And they are a noisy bird.

In 1916 the snow goose was one of the first migratory waterfowl that were protected from hunting. Prohibited until 1975, the bird made a spectacular comeback and now government and environmental groups are calling for more hunting.

Simply put, there are too many of them and they are overwhelming their traditional environments. In Canada in their traditional nesting areas, they have stripped the land of foliage. Because their diet includes seeds, they will take over a farmer’s field and strip it of everything.

Still, seeing them as close as we could get at Pea Island, spread across the impoundments, was pretty amazing. A great day on the Outer Banks.

There is so much to see and do from Carova to a day trip to Ocracoke. Make your reservations with Brindley Beach Vacations as soon as possible to begin exploring the Outer Banks.