Pender Trail

Pender County encompasses Topsail Beach and Surf City, so it's kind of interesting the NC Birding Trail doesn't go there. Only four stops are on the Pender Trail and they've all veered significantly inland compared to the usual riverside and oceanfront venues.

The first two stops are in the Holly Shelter Gameland, owned and operated by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. In the part known as the Southeast Gate, 10,000 acres range from a longleaf pine forest to an open pine savannah. The Greentree Impoundment is located at the opposite end of the preserve and has a boat ramp with access to the river. This is a hunting ground with 94 miles of dirt roads, and the gates are locked during off-season, though foot traffic is permitted. Birders are encouraged to familiarize themselves with hunting regulations and, above all, avoid wearing those moose antlers.

Abbey Nature Preserve is part of the 60-acre grounds of the historic Poplar Grove Plantation, a former peanut plantation in Hampstead that dates back to 1795. House and grounds tours are available year-round and a 2.5-mile nature trail runs through a forest, a grassy field, to a millpond that attracts osprey and belted kingfisher.

The National Park Service preserves Moores Creek National Battlefield as the scene of the victory of the Patriots over the Loyalists, in a skirmish now seen as a bit of a prelude to the Revolutionary War. Encampments, reenactments and detonation of explosives have in no way deterred the local bird population from enjoying 88 acres, a blackwater stream and an old-growth cypress swamp habitat, and you can sneak up on them using a vast network of footpaths, bridges and raised boardwalks.

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