Important Bird Areas

In Search of Spring Colors at Eno River State Park

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 backyards.

Please welcome guest-blogger and member of the New Hope Audubon Society, Caroline Gilmore.

"The Eno River is located in the central Piedmont of North Carolina, near Durham. Much of the Important Bird Area consists of Eno River State Park, which contains upland and lowland hardwoods, bottomland hardwoods, mixed pine?hardwood areas, pine, and old fields, as well as steep, mesic wooded slopes, which are atypical for the Piedmont of North Carolina." National Audubon Society

The 4,235-acre Eno River State Park is part of the 12,548-acre Eno River Bottomlands IBA. The park is divided into five access areas: Cabe Lands, Cole Mill, Fews Ford, Pleasant Green, and Pump Station.

Red-eyed Vireo by Caroline Gilmore.

Hoping for a very birdy day, I arrived at the Fews Ford Access area along the Eno River early one Sunday morning. My plan was to search for some spring bird colors along an unmarked trail that had been shown to me during a previous bird walk.

I parked my car, got out and surveyed the trees around the parking lot. Within minutes, I spotted a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher sitting on a dew-laden tree branch. I also saw a Magnolia Warbler, a Red-eyed Vireo, a Chipping Sparrow, a Carolina Wren, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and a Gray Catbird - and I hadn’t even left the parking lot!

This was already shaping up to be a great day.

I walked down the maintenance road on the far side of the parking lot, checking out the trees and bushes on both sides of the road as I went. Overhead, a Red-tailed Hawk flew by. I saw an Indigo Bunting sitting in an evergreen tree and a Swainson’s Thrush hiding in the underbrush. I even heard the nearby hooting of a Barred Owl.

As the road ended and gave way to a field, the trees in and around it hosted several birds: a Northern Cardinal, a Scarlet Tanager, a Brown-headed Catbird and an Eastern Bluebird. Perched at the top of the biggest tree was an Eastern Towhee.

Indigo Bunting by Caroline Gilmore.

A path led from the field into a mixed hardwood forest. Climbing up the trunk of one tree was a stunning Black-and-white Warbler. Sitting on a branch stump of another tree was a beautiful male American Redstart. And in the air was the unmistakable trilling of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Black and White Warbler by Caroline Gilmore.

I continued through the woods to an open firebreak area occupied by high grass, low trees and power lines. I heard the gobble of Wild Turkeys far off in the distance and the honking of Canada Geese bellowed overhead.

On a low tree sat a pair of Indigo Buntings; I had not seen a female Indigo Bunting before. Perched on top of a tree was a Common Yellowthroat. Two Yellow-throated Warblers frisked about in a nearby tangle of vegetation. Just inside the edge of the woods, a Pileated Woodpecker flew by within a few feet of the ground and within 20 feet of me!

Common Yellowthroat by Caroline Gilmore.

At the bottom of the hill, the firebreak area meets up with the Eno River, and the path heads into a riparian forest. I saw an Acadian Flycatcher in the shadows of the understory and an Eastern Phoebe perched on the top of a weed stalk.

As I concluded my hike and headed back to the parking lot, I decided to take the path leading up the hill. A pair of first-year Summer Tanagers was sitting in the trees within 10 feet me.

It had been a “birdy” day after all!

Summer Tanager by Caroline Gilmore.

Caroline Gilmore is a member of New Hope Audubon Society. She is a nature photographer, an avid birder and a professional writer.

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