Harker’s Island is for the birds. The 4-mile square island is a perfect habitat for our feathered friends since one quarter of the area is covered in water.
But there are people here too. Friendly people. Folks who went to the trouble of building a beautiful museum because they wanted a place to gather with their friends and neighbors. And, they’re nice enough to let other people in too!

When you come over the bridge off the US-70 you’re greeted by water front homes sitting proudly on stilts among the trees. You’ll pass a couple of restaurants, and by a couple I mean two, which may be the only game in town. But when you walk into the front door, you’re greeted with “Down East” hospitality and won’t feel deprived by the lack of choices.

After all…what do you really need beyond hush puppies, fried fish, sweet tea and a smile?

The annual Decoy Festival is what brought us here the first time. Held every year on the first weekend of December, the Decoy Carvers Festival and Waterfowl Weekend takes place in the Harker’s Island Elementary School and the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum.

 Classrooms are turned into mini art galleries where artisans display their creations. Every year there is a “theme bird” which becomes that year’s sort of mascot. You can witness the process and admire the art created when talented people take a chunk of wood and turn it into a life-like feathered duck or bird or fowl. You’ll half expect the decoys to spread their wooden wings and take flight!

Beautiful weekend weather made for a perfect stop at the Heritage Center and a perfect day to photograph the birds.

What’s cool is the museum is not a state-run property like the Harker’s Island Visitor’s Center located next door. It seems the community wanted to create a place to show off their natural wildlife treasures and history, but also provide a place where the community could hang out, have fun, and embrace the down-home feel of their little piece of paradise.

Trails run in and around the property so be sure to explore more than the interior of the Center when you go. Although their displays are pretty amazing if you’re a history buff or love decoys. And don’t miss the lookout outside the top floor.

We walked the dirt path alongside the Center then around the back to a pond. Ah…a waterfowl’s playground. It was toward the end of the day so the Ibis were busy catching their dinner.

Near the end of the trail’s loop is a little lookout fort where you can watch the activities on the pond through various openings in the structure. This way, the birds are uninhibited by your presence and do what birds do.

Learn more about Harkers Island: 1730-2010

Along with birds, you will enjoy other wonders of nature…including poison ivy.

In my enthusiasm to get closer for a better shot, I ventured off trail just a little (not recommended) and brushed by a plant or two. A friend pointed out the little three-leafed wonder to me as we left and I just said, “oops.”

Sometimes…life is in perfect sync

After getting our fill of waterfowl, and adding a couple hundred pictures to the memory card, it was time to find a spot to watch the sun set and say “thank you” for another day.

We found a little beach by the bridge on the way out of town. After setting up the tripod for the shot, I ventured out into the water.

The evening temperature was perfect, and the water was pretty warm. Now, I wasn’t going for a swim. My intention was to wash my bare legs down with the salt water in order to reduce any reaction I may have from an unintended brush with poison ivy.

The second poison ivy breakout precaution I took was to stop at a little store on the way home, and purchase some rubbing alcohol. I poured it over my legs and gave it a good wash.

The sunset was peaceful. The little wooden fishing boat anchored in the rocked gently, awaiting I imagined a well-weathered old salt. Between shots, I just pulled back and watched. I drank in that soft southern breeze.

The end to a perfect day.

And the poison ivy? Well, either I got lucky and missed it, the remedies worked, or I’m not sensitive to it. A few mosquito bites – yes; allergic reaction to poison ivy – no.