Where to Bird

April 1, 2008
Out of luck duck: Despite its camera-ready pose, a Muscovy duck is ignored as a group of birders searches for more exotic species

Out of luck duck: Despite its camera-ready pose, a Muscovy duck is ignored as a group of birders searches for more exotic species. Les Todd

In the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, the forested areas and edges of ponds are your best bet.

In addition to Shepherd Nature Trail, Duke Forest offers several other birding sites of interest. Directions to and highlights of all of them, including Shepherd, may be found on a website, created by biology research associate Will Cook, called Triangle Birder's Guide.

Birders willing to share the Al Buehler Trail with morning joggers and dog walkers will often be rewarded, particularly during spring migration. The new wetland created by researchers at the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences has added kingfishers, herons, sandpipers, and waterfowl to the usual mix of songbirds. The trail starts at the Washington Duke Inn across from West Campus on Cameron Boulevard.

Duke's "true east campus," the Duke University Marine Laboratoryin Beaufort, North Carolina, is an ideal location for coastal birding. At low tide, shorebirds and waterfowl can be seen in mud flats off the Pivers Island facility. It is best to have a spotting scope.

Ellerbe Creek, a quick drive (or bike ride) from campus, provides an urban oasis for great blue herons, owls, and songbirds.

Mason Farm Biological Reserve, maintained by the North Carolina Botanical Garden, is 900 acres of mixed habitat, including forests, wetlands, and fields, hosting more than 200 species of birds. A free permit is required for entry

Jordan Lake, in Chatham County, provides good opportunities for viewing waterfowl. With drought conditions this past summer and fall, low lake levels exposed mud flats that attracted sandpipers and other shorebirds. Winter birding can also be very fruitful there, as some waterfowl winter over. The Ebenezer Church parking area is a good place to start.

Northeast of Durham, Falls Lakeis another excellent site, with bald eagles and osprey in the summer, and shorebirds when water levels drop to create mud flats. Many songbirds and hawks can also be seen at nearby Butner Game Lands.

New Hope Waterfowl Impoundmenton Highway 54 near Chapel Hill offers good opportunities to see herons, egrets, kingfishers, and red-headed woodpeckers, as well as songbirds.