By Will Cook
Overview: Big Woods is the main road that runs north-south on the western side of Jordan Lake north of US 64. As the name implies it is mostly wooded, though undergoing rapid development. There are a few places to stop to scan the lake, great landbirding, and a wonderful swamp at the north end.
Getting there: Traveling west on US 64, Big Woods Road is the first road to the right after you cross the lake and pass Parker's Creek Recreation Area. It's 3.2 miles west of the intersection of 64 and 1008 (Farrington Road).
Coordinates for Google Earth/Maps: 35 44 20.5 N, 79 03 27.5 W
Where to go: There are a several good places to stop along the road's 6.4 mile length. At 1.6 miles north is a small gravel pulloff and gated road on the right. The pines just past the gate hosted a flock of Red Crossbills in January 2000. A short distance down the trail you can cut through the woods to view a secluded arm of the lake. Follow the trail along the fence and you'll eventually reach a sewage plant, which usually has a few Bufflehead in the winter.
Heading north again on Big Woods, the next good spot is Jordan Lake Educational State Forest, 2.8 miles north of 64. This is open M-F 9-5 and Sat-Sun 11-5. This is a fairly new facility and therefore has not been birded much, but the trails should be good for woodland birds.
At 3.5 miles on the right is the N.C. Forest Resources Center. The gate is normally closed, but it's only a short walk in. Hike in, with scope, along the gravel road. Shortly you'll see a mowed field on the left, which is used an airport for toy airplanes. Sometimes there are a few birds in this area. Further on you come to the center. Walk through the woods beyond the center to the lake shore. This gives you an excellent view of the main part of the lake north of the 64 bridge. During the nesting season, you should easily find, on the dead trees in the water , Double-crested Cormorants and and Ospreys on their nests. If you look carefully, you may see swallows flying around the dead trees. This is one of the southernmost outposts for nesting Tree Swallows. Also worth checking out is a swampy area with willow trees to the right of the center, which can be good for migrant warblers.
At 4.4 miles north of 64 is a small pulloff on the right and a short trail to the lake, which occasionally has a few migrants. At 4.9 miles is a road off to the right labelled "Public Fishing Area". At the intersection here is an old orchard, which is can be one of the best spots on the road for migrant passerines. On the northeast corner (opposite the old orchard) North Carolina's first Pacific-slope Flycatcher was discovered on 1/15/2000. A short walk further on the side road brings you to a small field, good for field birds, and not too much further on is the lake, though here you're likely to see more fishermen than birds.
At 6.2 miles is the Big Woods Road Swamp. This beaver impoundment is one of the best single spots at Jordan Lake for finding a wide variety of birds. It's good for Red-headed Woodpeckers, Blue Grosbeaks,migrants, ducks, herons, and sparrows. Many unusual birds have been seen here, including a Black-necked Stilt, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Swainson's Warbler, American Tree Sparrow, and even a reputed Fulvous Whistling-Duck. On a spring morning you could find 40-50 species just from this one spot.
At 6.4 miles is the end of Big Woods road. Turn right on Jack Bennett Road and at 0.3 miles, you'll come to another swamp, which may be worth exploring. At 0.8 miles Jack Bennett Road ends. Turn right on Lystra Road and at 0.4 miles you'll come to a third swamp. This may also merit a stop if you have time. At 1.0 miles Lystra Road ends at Farrington Road (1008). Turn right to return to US 64 in 6.2 miles. On the way, you'll pass Farrington Point.
Facilities:The Jordan Lake Educational State Forest has picnic tables, a picnic shelter, and (probably - need to investigate) bathrooms.
When to visit: Fall through Spring.
Revised 1/1/2009 firstname.lastname@example.org
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