Rolling View State Recreation Area

By Josh Rose

Overview: Rolling View SRA is situated at the tip of a peninsula which extends into Falls Lake. Most of the land area is covered in Loblolly Pine with few bird species, mainly Pine Warbler and Brown-headed Nuthatch. However, along the shoreline small willows, maples, and other deciduous trees grow between the taller pines and the lake. Roving mixed-species flocks of warblers, vireos, and other landbirds forage in this edge habitat, and often get concentrated at the tip of the peninsula before they either cross the lake or disperse back into the woods. In particular, when large numbers of insects are hatching along the water's edge, this food source brings many woodland bird species down to the beach where they can be easily observed. When water levels are low, one can walk around most of the point on the beach; when water levels are higher, the beach is submerged, but birding is often worthwhile from the circular parking area at the end of the road, and the trail behind the adjacent rest rooms.

The peninsula also provides a great vantage point from which to scan the lake. The peninsula constricts the lake, such that waterbirds traveling from east to west must pass through a relatively narrow and easily watched area. Terns regularly occur here in the summer and after hurricanes, and Osprey nest within spotting scope range. Occasional Common Loons and Horned Grebes occur here in the winter, as well as gulls (although gulls are more easily seen where they raft up near Sandling Beach SRA). When high water submerges the shoreline near the tip, the larger nearby parking lot adjacent to the boat ramp provides a good view of the lake east of Rolling View. The parking lot for the swimming area provides a good westward view. Note that this area is hugely popular with boaters and fishermen. On days with nice weather, especially in the summer, arrive early; motorboats and jet-skis will spook the birds and shatter the stillness later in the day.

The peninsula south of Rolling View is crisscrossed with power-line cuts, dirt roads, and dead-end streets. While the land is overwhelmingly private, some are worth birding from the road. Perhaps the best is Southview Road, which leads south from Baptist Road and crosses NC 98. At the intersection of Baptist and Southview is a large field which harbors Northern Bobwhite, a species which has decreased markedly in numbers in the Triangle in recent years. The road then passes through some nice upland forest. After it crosses NC 98, Southview Rd. crosses a small creek and passes through a beautiful floodplain forest, then a cattle pasture lined with shrubs and small, dense evergreens; the pasture edges host many sparrows, mostly White-throated but also Fox and occasionally White-crowned.

Falls Lake hosted a dazzling variety of pelagic bird species after Hurricane Fran's close pass in 1996. A Pomarine Jaeger, very rare this far inland, was seen from Rolling View by many observers over a couple of weeks in November of 1997. Even better was Durham County's first Western Grebe, very rare anywhere in the state, which Ricky Davis found on 11 November 2001. Landbird migrants seen here include a Philadelphia Vireo in October 1998, and a Merlin was seen here in September 1998. Non-feathered inhabitants include the Eastern Box Turtle and Georgia River Cruiser (a very impressive dragonfly).

Getting there: From Interstate 85, take US 70 east toward Raleigh. Exit at NC 98 and turn right (east). After about 5 miles, turn left on Baptist Road just after the John W. Neal Middle School (note: the turkeys shortly after this turn are not wild!). Follow this road until it turns into the main road through Rolling View SRA. Southview Road is on the right two miles before Rolling View, directly across Baptist Road from a Baptist church. RVSRA opens at 8 AM, and closes at 6 PM in the winter, 7-8 PM in the spring and fall, 9 PM in the summer.

Coordinates for Google Earth: 36 01 25 N, 78 43 40 W (parking area for best scanning of lake)

Facilities: The circular parking area near the point has rest rooms which are only open during the summer. Year-round rest rooms are located in the Community Building next to the boat ramp, and also at the swimming area. Most of the lake can be scanned from paved, handicapped-accessible areas, and many of the picnic areas, rest rooms, and campgrounds are also wheelchair-accessible. Tent, RV, and group campsites are available. Rolling View Marina sells food and drink.

When to visit: Fall is the best time; early fall for land birds, later in the fall for water birds. Some water birds may stay the winter. Summer is generally quiet, but after hurricanes Falls Lake can be exciting.

Revised 12/28/2008

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