Alligator River/Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
P. O. Box 1969
Manteo, North Carolina 27954

Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131

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News Release

September 8, 2010

Annual festival offers variety of programs for birders, paddlers and history junkies

Nature, history, entertainment — it's all wild on the Outer Banks of North Carolina!

The 14th annual Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival, Nov. 9-14, in addition to birding, paddling and photography programs, also includes a number opportunities that will appeal to those who want to know
more about the yesteryears of the area.

Visit Rodanthe on Hatteras Island to hear the compelling telling of the story of the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station - the scene of the most highly awarded maritime rescue in US history! Learn about its part in the US Life-Saving Service (est. 1871) which in 1915 became the US Coast Guard. In that 44-year history, the Chicamacomico lifesavers responded to 178,741 shipwreck victims, saving 177,286. The program also includes a self-guided tour of site which includes lifesaving stations, outbuildings, and a two-story 1907 period- furnished home.

No review of history of the area would be complete without a visit to one of the Outer Banks' historic lighthouses. Imagine a day in the life of Currituck Beach Lighthouse Keepers in the late 1800's and
early 1900's. Tour the private quarters of the Victorian 1876 Keepers' House and other historic structures on the grounds. Learn about the duties of keepers and their families in the isolated seaside outpost. Climb 214 steps to the top of the 1875 Currituck Beach Lighthouse for an exhilarating bird's-eye view of the northern Outer Banks with close inspection of the operational first order Fresnel lens that can be seen 18 miles out to sea.

Portsmouth Island village, established by NC's Colonial Assembly in 1753 and maintained by the National park Service since 1976, is a step back in time. Although the last resident left in 1971, the village and its remaining buildings, on the National Register of Historic Places, are a living testimonial to a once-thriving and vibrant coastal community.

On Roanoke Island, the site of the first attempt at English colonization of the New World (20 years before Jamestown), visit The Island Farm established in 1783 by Jesse Etheridge, and his grandson built the restored two-story house around 1850 using hewn and pit- sawn timbers and bricks believed to be from ship's ballast. Come stroll the grounds - view grazing sheep and preserved outbuildings and stop at stations that recreate the vibrant life of the 1850's from hearth cooking where you can try your hand at making a cornmeal Johnny cake, to children's toys and games where you can give the games the Etheridge children played a try, like Hunt the Slipper, England and France, plus many others.

As always, there are many programs that focus on birding, paddling, photography and other wildlife adventures.

Birding trips range from those geared toward beginners to experts who are searching for a life-list species. There are more than 400 species that can be found on the Outer Banks, of which more than a quarter of a million acres is in conservation in Dare County alone!

The region offers some of the country's best paddling for canoe and kayak enthusiasts. From tannin-fed cypress swamps to endless marsh mazes, it is possible to paddle the region for a lifetime yet still study charts at night, discovering unexplored areas. Registration currently is open for an assortment of water trips escorted by leaders who are familiar with the various areas. Physical demands range from open water with wind exposure, to short distances with excellent wind protection.

Bill Thompson, guitarist with The Swinging Orangutangs, rocks in both the music world and as a naturalist. He will be the Wings Over Water keynote speaker on Friday, Nov. 12, at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. He has been the with the Bird Watcher's Digest since May 1988. In January 1995, he became the magazine's editor, a position he still holds.

Outgoing and funny, he enlivens bird walks and programs with his not- so-dry humor and ever-present guitar.

There just can't be a better way to end the day than taking a leisurely stroll through the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island while enjoying a relaxing drink and then having dinner right in front of the shark tank before sitting back and enjoying the great humor, music and insight offered by Bill Thompson who comes armed with rave reviews and books to sign!

This festival is traditionally set during the "shoulder season" when rates are lower for accommodations, traffic is light and the weather is mild. To learn more about the Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival call 252-216-9464 or go to

Wings Over Water is sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society, Carolina Bird Club, Roanoke Island Festival Park and the Outer Banks Sentinel.

Island Farm
The Island Farm Living History Site offers programs daily and is open
from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Step back into the
mid-1800s and get a glimpse of what life was like in 'the good old
days' when Miss Crissy Bowser spent almost 70 years cooking the meals
over an open hearth. Photo Credit: The Outer Banks Sentinel.