Text and photos by Peter Vankevich
Springer’s Point Preserve, located at the edge of Ocracoke village, has more than 120 acres of maritime forest, tidal red cedar forest, salt marsh, wet grasslands and soundfront beach with ancient live oaks and a small cemetery where Sam Jones and his horse, Ikey D, are buried.
Just off the preserve is the infamous Teach’s Hole where the pirate Blackbeard met his demise at the hands of British Naval officer Lt. Robert Maynard and his crew in “The Battle of Ocracoke 1718.”
Most of the year, one can find solitude there in an early morning walk or watch beautiful, late-afternoon sunsets. A camera, or, these days, a smart phone, can capture moments worth preserving.
As it did to Ocracoke and Portsmouth villages, Hurricane Dorian’s storm surge did some damage to the preserve, which was closed temporarily so the trails could be repaired. Happily, the preserve reopened.
Here are some images, including some of the important residents, taken over the past several years.
Late afternoon is a wonderful time to visit the preserve, especially in fall and winter.
Ocracoke can get a freeze a few times each winter. If it is prolonged, as it was in late 2018 to early 2019, ice forms. This Ruddy Turnstone in winter (basic) plumage braves it out at the Springer’s Point beach area.
Here, the Ruddy Turnstone can be seen in its beautiful breeding (alternate) plumage seen on June 19 two years ago.
Springer’s Point, Feb. 21, 2019, a day when ferry service was temporarily suspended.
“Beneath the foggy sky the glowing sea is hazy, the soft light of a scarf over a lamp.” ― Melissa Barbeau, author of ‘The Luminous Sea.’
Dusk on a Valentine’s Day at Springer’s Point.
Two Long-tailed Ducks spent several days foraging just off the beach this year at Springer’s Point in late January. These ducks are more likely seen in winter off the coast in Maine than in the waters of North Carolina.
A stark February day.
On a winter day, you are almost guaranteed to see a Myrtle Warbler, aka Yellow-rumped. They have adapted their diets to eat berries when insects are scarce, permitting them to winter farther north than other species in the warbler family.
‘Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down onto the forest floor and overhead you could see a blue sky between the tree tops.’ ― C.S. Lewis
Springer’s Point just before sunset.
Green flashes and green rays are meteorological optical phenomena that sometimes occur just after the sun sinks below the horizon, or right before sunrise. Jules Verne, in his 1882 novel ‘The Green Ray,’ helped to popularize this curious phenomenon. The green light is visible for the briefest of moments and I have seen it only twice on Ocracoke. Springer’s Point with its clear air is as good a location as anywhere to possibly see it because if you don’t see it ―and you probably won’t ― you’ll still be awarded with a beautiful sunset.
Mixed flock of Brown Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants.
Some Brown Pelicans winter around Ocracoke but most head farther south. Those that winter elsewhere return in March and hundreds will nest primarily on two islands a few miles out in the Pamlico Sound. Expect to see lots of them flying past Springer’s Point starting early spring.
Several memorial benches are placed throughout the preserve, ideal to spend contemplative times or read a good book.
An eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) has a safe refuge at Springer’s Point where there are no speeding vehicles on the trail, unlike throughout much of its range.
A Least Tern flying past Springer’s Point on May 12, 2022. Sadly, their large nesting colony nearby at South Point was wiped out during our big blow last week. It’s still early, maybe they will try again.
If you walk quietly, you may be greeted by a Northern Cardinal anytime of the year at Springer’s Point. Photo taken Feb 13, 2019