Photo by Jack Thigpen

By Peter Vankevich

The Portsmouth Island Christmas Bird Count took place on Dec. 31 and 69 species were tallied. To read more on that count, click here. 

The overcast, subdued winter light added a subtle beauty to the long-deserted village.  Below are some photos taken by the group on the island that day, not a bird’s eye view of Portsmouth, but rather a birder’s eye view.

As you walk through the village from the ferry arrival dock on the sound side, you cross Doctor’s Creek. An excellent spot to see or hear Clapper and Virginia Rails.

Photo by Brian Smith.


The Methodist Church is a prominent building in the village and one of the most photographed. On a bird census one sees the church from a less familiar angle. Perched on a branch is one of the two Merlins that were seen.

Photo by Peter Vankevich

North America’s smallest duck, the Bufflehead, nests in tree cavities often made by Northern Flickers near ponds and lakes in boreal forests and aspen parklands of Canada and Alaska. They winter in protected coastal waters of both coasts of North America and some inland waters. This is one of 21 individuals seen on the count day.

Photo by Brian Smith

Walking the back trails near the school can bring one close to nature.

Photo by Peter Vankevich

The land outside the village on the way to the beach used to be an expansive salt flat. Over the past 20 years, grasses and vegetation have grown over it, diminishing the habitat for shorebirds. Here is one of the eight Lesser Yellowlegs that were seen that day.

Photo by Elizabeth Cisne


On the nature trail between the school and airfield was this Fowler’s Toad (Bufo Anaxyrus). Photo by Jeff Beane

 September’s  Hurricane Florence caused some structural damage to some of the buildings, including Henry Pigott’s house, below. A tradition of hanging Christmas wreaths on the houses was begun many years ago by Ocracoke islander, Chester Lynn. When he was no longer able to continue, the Friends of Portsmouth Island took up the tradition.

Photo by Peter Vankevich
The community cemetery in solitude. Photo by Peter Vankevich
Reindeer lichen (Cladonia) was abundant along some of the walking trails. Photo by Jack Thigpen
Retired UNC-Chapel Hill professor (Emeritus) Haven Wiley updates his notes for the bird count. Photo by Peter Vankevich
Redhead ducks have been in large numbers in the region over the past winters. Photo by Brian Smith
Busy trail for wildlife. Photo by Elizabeth Cisne
A distant Merlin falcon perched on a bare branch is best seen with binoculars or a spotting scope. Photo by Peter Vankevich


Peter Vankevich is the compiler of the Portsmouth Island Bird Count.
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