Hank's Chapel - Gum Springs Church Road

By Will Cook

Overview: This underbirded area on the southwestern side of Jordan Lake has some great land-birding, but few water birds. It can be one of the best territories on the Jordan Lake bird counts.

Getting there: From US 64 at Wilsonville (1008), head west on 64. At 6.0 miles, you'll cross the Haw River. In 0.25 mile after the bridge, turn left onto Foxfire Trace, then in another 0.5 mile turn left onto Dee Farrell Road (1944). The route begins here.

Coordinates for Google Earth/Maps: 35 43 23 N, 79 06 59.9 W

My Bird Count Route:

At 0.1 mile on Dee Farrell is an old farm field on the left, often buzzing with activity - usually worth a short scan. At 0.4 mile is a large field on the left. Stop here and follow a short trail to a graveyard. There are often many sparrows and other field birds here. At 0.6 mile, Dee Farrell ends at a T intersection. Take a right onto Hank's Chapel Road (1943). Follow this for just 0.1 mile, then turn left onto Hank's Loop Road (1945). Follow this for 0.15 mile to Hank's Chapel Christian Church (founded 1835) and park.

Hank's Chapel is usually a very birdy spot, with Killdeer in the lawn, Bluebirds and Phoebes on the tombstones, Meadowlarks and sparrows calling in the adjacent cow pasture, and warblers passing through the trees. Be sure to check the tiny pond in the cow pasture. On the Jordan Lake Christmas Bird Count 12/28/2003, North Carolina's first Gray Flycatcher was found in the weeds in the cow pasture. A short gravel road leads to a gate as it enters the woods - you can walk past the gate and follow the trail for a short distance before turning back. Continue down Hank's Loop Road for another 0.15 mile (best by foot) and you'll come to another very birdy spot, with a small field on the right and a fenced enclosure on the left. I don't know why, but the trees on either side of this small field often produce the most warblers and other 'interesting' birds of any stop on this route. Drive to the end of Hank's Loop Road (0.45 miles) where it comes back to Hank's Chapel Road. There is a large field here that often is good for field birds. Reset the odometer and turn right. (If you turn left here you return to Dee Farrell Road in 0.3 mile.)

At 0.7 miles on the left is Robeson Creek Canoe Access, gated but open 24 hours a day. The 0.8 mile access road, which passes through mixed pine/hardwood forest, ends at the canoe access parking lot. The parking lot area can be moderately good for land birds.

At 0.95 miles on the left is Robeson Creek Boat Access. The parking lot area at the end of the short access road is sometimes worth checking.

At 1.3 miles pull off on the right, just after the bridge over Robeson Creek. A makeshift trail to the right, just past the end of the guardrail, leads back underneath the bridge. Unfortunately the trail is a little rough going in spots, thanks to Hurricane Fran. When you get to Robeson Creek, follow the makeshift trail to the left along the creek. You can follow this trail for about a mile until you get to some bluffs (you could continue further on the opposite bank, but I have not explored this). The trail is great for warblers, especially Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Northern Parula and migrant passerines. An area of dead pine trees on the left (the work of pine bark beetles) is great for woodpeckers and sparrows. Near the bluff area is a small stand of Chalk Maple (Acer leucoderme), a rare small understory tree, found mainly in the Piedmont of the southeastern states. The largest of these I measured and submitted as the state champion, since there was not one previously.

At 1.9 miles on the left is Providence Chapel Road. This 0.7 mile dead end road might have some birds, though I've never birded it. You'll be left wondering where the chapel actually is. Perhaps the sign at the end instructing you to park and walk along a dirt path is a clue. Note that Hank's Chapel Road becomes Gum Springs Church Road south of here, but retains the same number (1943).

At 2.9 miles is the bridge over Stinking Creek, with a pulloff at 3.0 miles. There usually isn't much here, but you can scope a small part of Jordan Lake and enjoy the flight of Barn Swallows. It looks like a good place for warblers to turn up, but I can't vouch for that yet.

At 4.3 miles is Clark Poe Road (1977). This 0.7 mile long road ends at a barrier. You can continue on foot to a small arm of the lake. Often very birdy.

At 4.6 miles is a large field on the right. It's worth giving a quick look for things like Prairie Warbler.

At 5.4 miles is a large powerline crossing, which is usually worth a quick stop.

At 5.8 miles is Gum Springs Baptist Church (founded 1829). The church yard and cemetery area often have some birds.

At 6.1 miles is Moncure-Pittsboro Road (1012). The end of the route. I usually head back the way I came. If you turn left here, in 2.1 miles you'll reach Jordan Dam Road. If you turn right, you'll end up in the south side of Pittsboro.

Another nice spot in the area is a large farm with a large pond on US 64, 1.6 miles west of Dee Farrell Road (1944). Fields and pond are often loaded with birds. Unfortunately traffic is bad and the birds tend to be fairly distant.

Facilities: None.

When to visit: Fall through Spring.

Revised 12/29/2008 cwcook@duke.edu

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