Beach Bites

BY Tyler Sparks

The brown pelican emerges from near extinction to become a familiar sight

You’ve seen them perched on posts beside the Oceanic flying in formation as you search for shells and diving out of the sky to catch fish silhouetted against the setting sun. They are majestic and wise and okay just a tad unusual. They’re Brown Pelicans — the ultimate Wrightsville Beach fishermen.

Rare bird

The Brown Pelican (Pelecanus Occidentalis) is unique among the world’s pelicans. A relatively large bird it’s the smallest of the eight pelican species. At 42-54 inches long it can weigh from six to 12 pounds and has a wingspan of six to eight feet (taller than most of the people reading this magazine!). It’s the only dark pelican and the only one that plunges like a rocket face first into the water to fish.

The Brown Pelican lives along eastern American coasts from Virginia in the North to northern Chile and the mouth of the Amazon River in the South. It’s a migratory bird traveling in flocks north during summer returning south in winter.

Other pelican species engage in cooperative fishing from the water’s surface but Brown Pelicans fly single-file in groups and dive for fish from the air. Their diet consists of herring-like fish and other marine invertebrates.

Young Brown Pelicans hatch in broods (families of offspring) of three and consume nearly 150 pounds of fish before reaching maturity. They construct broad flat nests of sticks in short trees shrubs or on the ground. They nest communally forming colonies with heron and other water birds.

The fall of the brown pelican

Unlike similar birds that warm their eggs with the skin of their breasts Brown Pelicans incubate eggs with their feet by standing on them and stretching their webbed toes to warm and protect them — an incubation method which causes problems for Brown Pelican populations exposed to the chemical DDT.

DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is a well-known synthetic pesticide. Military and civil DDT use during World War II controlled populations of mosquitoes and lice which radically reduced occurrences of malaria and typhus. Following the war DDT became commercially available as an agricultural insecticide and its production and use skyrocketed.

In 1962 American biologist Rachel Carson published the book Silent Spring (Houghton Mifflin) which chronicled ecological impacts of widespread DDT use in the U.S. Carson suggested that DDT caused cancer and threatened wildlife particularly birds.

In the case of the Brown Pelican environmental concentrations of DDT cause eggshells to be overly thin incapable of supporting embryos to maturity. Incubating parents exposed to DDT frequently destroy affected eggs while attempting to incubate them.

DDT was banned in the US in 1972 and subsequently banned from agricultural use worldwide under the Stockholm Convention in 2004. Along with the Endangered Species Act the U.S. ban on DDT is cited as a major factor in the regeneration of the Bald Eagle populations in the U.S.

Andy Wood education director for Audubon North Carolina says “Fishing line is now the single greatest cause of human-induced pelican death; we’ve found numerous dead pelicans tangled on the beach. If you snag a pelican while fishing reel him in unhook him and let him go. If a snagged bird flies off wrapped in fishing line it will die a slow grisly death. Always properly dispose of tangled fishing line.”

As the state bird of Louisiana the Brown Pelican is something of a celebrity. The next time you watch a serene line of them gliding low above the water’s surface take a moment to appreciate their presence here in Wrightsville the touch of elegance they add to our coastal community and take that small step to ensure their safety.

Great year for bird watching

This summer Audubon North Carolina is hosting free guided tours featuring one of our most beautiful natural resources: our birds. The tours which take place at the Mason Inlet Waterbird Management Area — a pristine 300-acre bird sanctuary on the north end of Wrightsville Beach — run from 9-11 a.m. each Friday through September 25 and are open to the public.

Participants can expect a relaxing walk along the sanctuary. The sandy habitats include sand flats and low dunes that serve as the perfect breeding habitat for beach-nesting birds like the Least Tern Black Skimmer American Oystercatcher Wilson’s Plover and other unique species.

Andy Wood education director for Audubon North Carolina says “It’s been a great year. We’ve seen a good number of birds. Lots of people are visiting and being respectful of posted areas. This program is only getting stronger.”

Participants should meet at the Mason Inlet information kiosk located off the cul de sac near the Shell Island Resort. No registration is required. For more information visit

The warm waters of the Atlantic are churning
… are you prepared for a hurricane?

August in Wrightsville Beach means hot fun in the sun the high point of the tourist season. But it also means the high point of hurricane season. Our advice: If you haven’t done so already you should prepare yourself your family your home and your business for the threat of a potential storm.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Floyd. Remember him? Floyd caused widespread flooding; nearly every river basin in the eastern part of the state exceeded 500-year flood levels. In total Floyd was responsible for 57 fatalities and $4.5 billion in damage mostly in coastal North Carolina. Another event like Hurricane Floyd probably isn’t likely but is a reality for which WB must prepare.

Wrightsville Beach Fire Chief Frank Smith says that “Nothing is new this year. Personal preparedness is still the key to understanding whether or not you and your family are prepared and ready to implement a plan when necessary. It’s important to not become complacent; we could see a serious storm and we need to have everything in place.”

Being prepared for a natural disaster is a challenge that covers many topics: evacuation routes home preparation insurance emergency kits disability information utilities pets and emergency shelters. Assess your situation to understand your needs in disaster preparedness:
• Have you considered your family and the special needs they may have (young children elderly parents or grandparents people with disabilities medications pets special foods and anything else you can think of that needs additional attention)?
• Do you know the local evacuation plan and the location of the emergency shelters?
• Do you know how to shut off your utilities?
• Have you prepared a fully-stocked first aid kit? How about an emergency kit with essential non-medical items?
• Are your priceless possessions (photos heirlooms important papers) protected?
• Do you have reliable transportation with plenty of fuel?
• Do you have nonperishable food and clean water to last a week?
• Do you have important phone numbers and cash in a protected place?
• Do you have batteries?

These suggestions should help get you thinking about being prepared but be proactive by educating yourself about hurricane preparedness. Here are some great resources:
• Emergency hurricane assistance (910) 256-7920
• WB Fire Department (910) 256-7920
• WB Police Department (910) 256-7945

Lumina Daze celebration returns

The 12th annual Lumina Daze Celebration a nostalgic evening of wholesome family fun will transport visitors back to the 1930s the glamorous heyday of Wrightsville Beach’s Lumina. Join the WB community on Sunday August 28 at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort (275 Waynick Boulevard) from 5-10 p.m. to celebrate the island’s heritage with 1930s-style festivities — big band music dancing old-time beach games races a ring toss face painting cake walks and movies on the beach.

Did you say big band music you ask? Yes we did. The Blockade Runner ballroom will host the Wilmington Big Band in addition to the a cappella and barbershop sounds of the Cape Fear Chordsmen and the Harmony Belles.

A raffle and silent auction — featuring a wide assortment of fine art services and specialties from local businesses — will benefit the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History.

Myers Cottage (100 years old this August!) is home to the WB Museum and serves as an iconic link to our community’s rich heritage. Located at 303 West Salisbury Street on Harbor Island the cottage is brimming with artifacts and records of WB’s 100-plus years of vibrant history. Visitors can learn about the interactions between humans and nature that have shaped the past century — from a catalogue of past hurricanes to the old trolley lines one-time WB landmarks such as Lumina and the Oceanic and a retrospective look at WB lifeguards through the years.

Lumina Daze organizer Linda Brown says “There have been many requests from the community to bring back Lumina Daze and this year there are enough volunteers. 2009 is a wonderful year to restart the event. With times like they are it’s a great event for families.”

Tickets for the event are available after June 15 with special pricing for families. For more information visit or call (910) 256-2569.

2009 East Coast Wahine Championship

Wrightsville Beach is a long way from Hawaii but the Aloha State’s concept of wahine — a female surfer — plays just as large a role in our Carolina culture. Need proof? Come on out to the weekend-long East Coast Wahine Surfing Tournament at WB.

This year — the tournament’s 13th — wahines will descend on Wrightsville from Saturday August 8 through Sunday August 9 at Crystal Pier (703 S. Lumina Avenue). The competition starts at 8 a.m. and includes shortboard longboard bodyboard and novice categories.

While the competition is always intense there’s still plenty of time for fun for surfers and fans alike. The East Coast Wahine is definitely a family event with caring companies and organizations like Surfrider and Uhuru Surfboards among the tournament’s sponsors.

“We have all ages and skill levels across the board. This is a weekend of camaraderie and surfing fun ” says co-event director Lisa Andree. “People come out from all over to renew old friendships. This is the only place a lot of them see each other every year. It’s a warm fuzzy for sure!”

For more information visit

Hooping it up

Remember the Hula Hoop from back when you were a kid — that round plastic piece of tubing spinning around your shimmying shaking body making you laugh out loud for hours on end? Of course you do. Well hooping is still a blast and a half but now it’s more than that. A national trend that started on the West Coast and has made its way to Wrightsville Beach suggests that the Hula Hoops of our memory are no longer simply toys but utilitarian tools to make us happier healthier human beings.

“Hooping has changed my life. It makes me happy and allows me to constantly travel meet new interesting people and teach them about hooping. It brings out big giant smiles ” says Kelly Jo Stull marine biology master’s student at UNCW and local hooping guru. Stull finds time to perform with her hoop teach weekly hooping classes and bounce back and forth between the east and west coasts on official hooping business that often involves Radiant Hoops her self-owned hooping company.

Hooping makes you feel great physically and emotionally. It did during your childhood and plenty of adults on both coasts say it still does.

“While the hooping crowd on the West Coast is generally younger the demographic here is wider ” says Stull. “I teach a lot of older women who look at the hoop as a comfort from their past. It’s an easy form of exercise that feels like fun not work which makes it accessible. I watch the stress melt from my students’ faces as they say things like ‘I feel my abs again!’ It’s a wild fun educational ride that brings people together.”

Hooping is a sport that is truly for everyone. “I’ve never had a student I couldn’t teach to hoop ” says Stull. “It’s a good static way to engage your core muscles without hurting your knees or back. And it’s low-impact which means it’s perfect for arthritis sufferers.”

Stull teaches weekly hoop classes at the Carolina Beach Recreation Center (1121B North Lake Park Boulevard 910-458-2977) and Babs McDance Studio (6782 Market Street 910-395-5090). For more information visit