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.
Mary Alice Holley is a communications consultant with Audubon North Carolina, recent transplant to Raleigh, and a self-proclaimed nature nut. She jumped at the opportunity to explore an IBA in her backyard and feature it on the ANC blog.
“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
One of the many perks of working with Audubon North Carolina is learning about the conservation programs at work to keep our state a destination for birds and a support system for all wildlife. With the Important Bird Area program, ANC and their partners have identified 96 IBAs comprising 4.9 million acres across the state that provide essential habitat for bird. They continue work to support education and advocacy efforts in each of the IBAs continues.
My favorite part about living in North Carolina is that there is no shortage of outdoor destinations to explore. Whether in the mountains of Western North Carolina, or right here in the piedmont, the next adventure is only a stone’s throw away. Many of Audubon’s IBAs offer more than a sanctuary for birds; they also include hiking and biking trails, overlooks to take in a stellar view and so much more.
Many of these exciting places are also located right in our own backyards!
This weekend, armed with my camera and my copilot Hazel, I drove the short distance (20 minutes to be exact) to Jordan Lake to enjoy an afternoon hike and take in the emerging plants and wildlife peaking out after a long winter. I chose the New Hope Overlook trail for its 5.4-mile loop and the promise of sweeping lakefront views. Jordan Lake offers recreational activities for everyone including hiking and biking trails, and areas for a picnic or overnight camping destination.
If you haven’t stopped by the New Hope overlook, I highly recommend it for birders and nature nuts alike. While Hazel took a dip in the water (which is a requirement of every hike), I sat and watched a pair of birds soaring through the sky.
We are only beginning to see the April showers, so my hike didn’t capture many May flowers, but I was delighted to find small pops of color along the trail with these bright pink buds poking out on a few tree limbs. I look forward to returning as the woods are fully in bloom, as the Jordan Lake IBA will be filled with wildflowers and more native plants.
As I made my way up the hills and around the loop, I was surrounded by bare pines and fallen limbs; the result of a harsh winter. But I also found the beauty in knowing this dreary scene is a dream home for the Brown-headed Nuthatch and other cavity nesters looking for the perfect knot to nest and raise their babies. Here’s just a sneak at one of many cavities I came across during my stroll.
I even paused to listen to a busy bird family high in the trees. Can you name that chirp?
What to Expect
The lake and surrounding forests support great diversity of birds, and none is more prominent than the Bald Eagle. Up to four eagle nests have been documented in a single breeding season at Jordan Lake, and as many as 71 eagles have been recorded. Jordan Lake is one of only two nesting sites for Double-crested Cormorants known in North Carolina. This is a great place for a bird walk, as you may also spot a Wood Duck, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Cliff Swallow or Wood Thrush making a home along the lake. To find out more about recreation at Jordan Lake or any of North Carolina’s parks, visit ncparks.gov.
Thank you for inviting Hazel and I to share our IBA walk with you! We hope you consider taking your next bird walk through a local IBA.