Duke Forest (Durham Division) Field Site Loop

By Will Cook

Overview: Between 1991-1996, Jeff Pippen and I reported a number of interesting sightings from "the field site" in Duke Forest. Here are specific directions of a loop we've taken many times. This loop is best during spring and fall migration, though butterflying can be good in the summer.

Getting There: Take bypass 15-501 to NC 751 and go north on 751, away from the Duke campus. In 2.0 miles, you'll see Kerley Road on the left and Duke Forest Gate 10 on the right. Stay on 751 0.7 miles past Gate 10 and pull off where the large powerline crosses the road. On the left is Gate 12. Park near the gate, but be sure not to block it.

Coordinates for Google Earth/Maps: 36 01 31.3 N, 78 59 21.9 W

Where to go: Walk past Gate 12 and follow the powerline west. There is a Duke Forest road, then an unimproved trail along the powerline. You will cross a little stream, then come to the well-used Southern Railroad tracks. Turn right at the tracks and follow the railway east. In 10-15 minutes, you'll cross under NC 751 and see a sign labelled "Funston" on the left. After another 100 yards, cut into the woods on the right - in about 20 yards you'll come to a Duke Forest road paralleling the tracks. Turn left on the road. (If you turn right, you'll get to Gate 13 on 751.) Follow the road as it makes a 90 degree right turn and continue straight until you get back to the big powerline. Turn right at the powerline and follow it along the road, then unimproved trail back to 751 and your car. The remnants of the field site (now unused) are on the right where the road diverges from the powerline. The whole loop should take an hour or two, depending on the birding. If you drive north from here along 751, you come to Gate 13 in 0.2 mi and US 70 in 0.5 mi. Maps of Duke Forest are available and recommended for exploring the forest roads. For information on how to get a map, visit http://www.dukeforest.duke.edu or call the Duke Forest office at 919-613-8013. There isn't much room to turn around at Gate 12 (and the speed limit is 55), so to turn around I recommend you continue north to US 70 and find a place to turn around there.

Another, 1.2 mi. longer, variation: park near (not blocking) Gate 10 (2.0 miles north of 15-501). Walk in on the forest road and follow the main road (to the left) when you come to a fork. In about 0.6 miles, you'll come to the powerline. Turn left and follow the directions above: follow the powerline across 751 to the Southern Railroad, follow the railroad under 70, then the forest road to the powerline, but continue straight on to Gate 10 when you get back to the powerline, instead of turning right. There should be no problem turning around at Gate 10.

What to look for: This area isn't the best birding spot around, but Jeff Pippen and I birded here daily for over 4 years, so we turned up quite a few interesting things. Our field site list stands at 140 species. Some of the most interesting sightings (or hallucinations, depending on who you ask) are Mississippi Kite (2), Swainson's Hawk (only the fourth NC record), Yellow Rail, Olive-sided Flycatcher (2), Gray-cheeked Thrush (2), Golden-winged Warbler (4), Nashville Warbler (6), and Wilson's Warbler (2). We've seen 31 species of warbler there, not including Yellow-throated or Prothonotary, two common local breeders. At the edge of their range, the Mountain race of Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius alticola) breeds here in the tall pine trees. Groundhogs and Chipmunks are near the southern edge of their range here. See also Jeff Pippen's description of the Gate 10 area.

Facilities: None.

When to Visit: Any season, though spring and fall are best.

Revised 12/13/08 cwcook@duke.edu

Triangle Birder's Guide home | Chatham/Jordan Lake | Durham/Falls Lake | Orange | Wake