Will Suitt Road railroad grade

By Will Cook and Les Todd

Overview: The abandoned railroad tracks on Will Suitt Road provide a nice easy hike through the woods for land birds and access to mudflats for searching for shorebirds. When the water level at Falls Lake drops [current report], this becomes a great area to look for shorebirds. Normal pool level for Falls Lake is 252'. Mudflats at the shallow western end of the lake (see Railroad trestle — south) start developing when the level is below 249'. Will Suitt starts to become good around 247'. When it's at 245' or below, Will Suitt probably will be too dry, so try areas such as Hickory Hill Boat Ramp, the Cheek Road causeway, and the Olive Grove Church Rd. area.

Some examples of shorebird highlights from years past: A Buff-breasted Sandpiper was found on 8/31/98 by Chris Eley on the eastern side of upper Falls Lake on the mud flats near the end of the old railroad grade off Will Suitt Rd. Also present on 8/31 were Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Spotted Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, along with many Killdeer. On 9/4/98 Bert Fisher, Leto Copeley, and Les Todd found an American Golden-Plover and 3 Buffies here. On 9/5/98 Will Cook found a flock of five Buffies and flushed a Yellow Rail. The mixed forest along the old railroad bed leading to the spot can also be excellent for migrating warbler flocks.

Getting there: From Durham and Chapel Hill, take Interstate 85 North and take exit 186A (Butner/Creedmoor, US 15) just after crossing Falls Lake. Turn right towards Creedmoor. After about 1/4 mile turn right onto Will Suitt Rd. (a small country store is on the left). Go about 1/4 mile crossing a small arm of the lake and you'll see a spot to pull over on your right leading to a gated path.

Address for Google Maps: 11330 Boyce Rd, Creedmoor, NC

Coordinates for Google Earth: 36 04 45.2 N, 78 45 17.2 W

Where to go: Follow the gated path for about 1 mile. After crossing a small trestle, go 200 or 300 yards until a cove of the lake begins to come quite close to the path on your right. At that point, look to your left and you should see the mudflats beyond a very healthy stand of tall Bulrushes (Scirpus cyperinus), a large sedge-like plant with woolly tops. The best access is to backtrack slightly from this point and proceed through the woods with the Scirpus on your right until it thins out some and is easier to cross. Explore the area. The best spot to find shorebirds varies from day to day, along with the water level.

Revised 4/5/2009 cwcook@duke.edu

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