Important Bird Areas

Eyeing the Eagles at Jordan Lake

North Carolina has 96 Important Bird Areas across the state that support wildlife in very special ways while offering a recreational playground for birds and people alike. In this special blog series, each of Audubon North Carolina’s 10 chapters will take a walk through their IBAs to give readers a glimpse of what can be enjoyed in our own neighborhood.

Please welcome guest-blogger and member of the New Hope Audubon Chapter, Maria de Bruyn.

“The B. Everett Jordan Dam and Lake is located in central North Carolina, with much of the state’s human population living within a 120 km (75 miles) radius of the project. The Jordan Lake Project preserves thousands of hectares of natural lands in the midst of an expanding urban area. Of this total, 4,239 ha (10,475 acres) have been flooded to form the lake, and 10,025 ha (24,772 acres) are being managed for recreation and wildlife management.” –National Audubon Society

April 27th promised to be a lovely day, so I headed out to the New Hope Audubon Society’s wonderful eagle platform at Jordan Lake. This wildlife observation platform was built in 2012 as a collaborative project with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

Even though it was about 7 a.m., another photographer was already at the platform, waiting to catch sight of an eagle. He had watched an Osprey, but no eagles had appeared, so I decided to walk along the lakeshore to see what else was out and about.

My first reward: a pair of Prothonotary Warblers. The male was often singing, the female mostly silent, and both were flitting about.


Prothonotary Warbler

Shortly thereafter, I caught a flash of red and saw a male Scarlet Tanager also singing loudly, pausing now and then to catch a tasty caterpillar.

The Carolina Chickadees were filling up on caterpillars too, but also looking for nesting material. A bit further on, Brown-headed Nuthatches were flying to and from their nest in a dead tree just off shore. I caught one parent just as she was leaving the nest with a fecal sac – keeping the nest tidy!

Carolina Chickadee

Other birds passed by, including Belted Kingfishers, Carolina Wrens, a Great Blue Heron, cormorants, a male towhee, Yellow-rumped Warbler and cardinals. I was still hoping for an eagle sighting, so I decided to walk along the new trail that the New Hope Audubon group is constructing just off the platform parking lot.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

There I ran into another birder who lamented not having seen eagles. When I encountered him later on the other side of the lake, he had seen parents catching fish for a juvenile! Two other photographers also arrived in search of the majestic birds. It turns out they did see one – and so did I as it flew swiftly through the forest trees in front of me – scared from the shore by two onlookers. None of us were able to get a photo.

But I did see butterflies and fungi.

In hopes of seeing some eagles that I could immortalize with a photo, I later proceeded to the Farrington boat ramp and strolled through the woods and along the shore. Some crows were harassing a Red-tailed Hawk, and in the distance I saw some Ring-billed Gulls successfully fishing.

A Spotted Sandpiper hopped about on shore, but the highlight at this spot was watching Northern Rough-winged Swallows swooping over the water. The male was bringing bits of possible nesting material to the female when she perched on a dead tree. She seemed to like some; I guess the verdict was out on others.

All in all, it was a great birding day and I’ll certainly be returning to the lake again and again!

The New Hope Audubon chapter has served Chatham, Durham, Orange and parts of other counties in the Piedmont region since October 1974. Their Jordan Lake Christmas Count began in 1977 and the chapter has now installed 26 barn owl nesting boxes at various sites, including three at B. Everett Jordan Dam – one of which has a nesting cam, so we can watch when the barn owls take up residence! See:

Maria de Bruyn is a wildlife photographer who works freelance on human rights, gender and health.

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