By Scott Winton, Randy Neighbarger and Curt Richardson
Duke University Wetland Center
Overview: SWAMP, an acronym standing for Stream and Wetland Assessment and Management Park, is a stream and riparian restoration project focusing on the upper Sandy Creek watershed that has been implemented in several phases from 2001 to 2014. The Duke University Wetland Center and its director, Dr. Curt Richardson, have overseen construction, research and monitoring activities in SWAMP. Though SWAMP includes several miles of restored tributaries, the best parts of SWAMP to bird are the dam and retention pond and restored stream branches immediately upstream, which are accessible via the Al Buehler Trail and Sally Meyehoff Fitness Loop. There is a bird blind and a couple of stream overlook platforms that allow one to get away from jogging traffic (which can be heavy at times) and a series of education signs illustrating and explaining wetland functions and wildlife.
What to look for: As of May 2014, 109 species have been observed in SWAMP, which includes most of the expected resident and common migratory species. Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons and Mallards are frequent visitors to the retention pond, and in recent winters a small flock of Hooded Mergansers has been present. Red-shouldered Hawks have nested in the area and can often be spotted on prominent perches around the pond edge. In spring, the water level on the pond is dropped slightly, which exposes some small mud flats near the bird blind that can attract migrating Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers. The area near the blind and just upstream has the best potential to attract interesting migrants. Blackburnian, Hooded, Nashville, Tennessee Warblers and a Yellow-breasted Chat (in the dead of winter!) have all been seen in this area. Most famously, an unwary American Bittern spent nearly a month eating crayfish in front of the photo blind in late fall.
Getting there: There are two easy ways to access the SWAMP: 1) park at the gravel lot on 751/Academy Rd/Cameron Blvd just east of the entrance to the Washington Duke Hotel and Golf Club. From here walk the Al Buehler Cross Country Trail downhill and then follow it until you start seeing signs about SWAMP. Be sure to visit the marked stream overlook on the left before moving on to the bird blind and dam. Turn left where the path tees on the far side of the dam to reach the Sally Meyerhoff Fitness Loop. 2) Park on Pinecrest Rd at the corner of 751/Academy Rd and follow the spur trail that leads to the Sally Meyehoff Fitness Loop. When you reach the loop, turn left and follow the stream on your left hand side. Eventually turn left again at the fork to reach the dam.
Gravel lot access: 35.993370, -78.944917
Pinecrest Road access: 35.984706, -78.942020
Bird observation deck: 35.989617, -78.944649
When to visit: Spring, fall, and winter are best.
Links: Maps, trail guides, a bird checklist, and a 2-minute video introduction to SWAMP are available at www.nicholas.duke.edu/wetland.
Last update: 7/27/2014 firstname.lastname@example.org
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