North Carolina county #7 Calloway Forest Preserve
On ebird, I found this hotspot with 4 checklists for it – Calloway Forest Preserve. It seemed to be my best option for Hoke County, so I stopped by for a visit.
This trip was immediately after I went to Butler Nature Preserve in Cumberland County, so it was already close to midday, and it was a record-breaking warm day for January 18th. On the way out, my car said 77°, and it was quite sunny while I was there.
Calloway Forest Preserve is a rather large (>3000 acres) area with a good chunk of it open for hunting during the season. It is pretty much all sandy soil, pines and grasses like you can see in the photo above. When I was there, I saw a few people with horses unloading, and I also was following in the path of one for most of my walk, which was somewhat comforting since I at least felt I wasn’t lost in that giant place alone. It didn’t help that I missed the normal hiking trail. I didn’t see the map until I was on the way out, and the signpost at the T-junction near the entrance didn’t help.
I guess it had an arrow on it at some point.
This place was very promising. I thought there was a chance for Bachman’s Sparrow or Red-cockaded woodpecker, both of which I have not seen yet. Unfortunately, sometimes the birds are just not out. Despite walking for close to two and a half hours, I saw a grand total of 7 species. It was not the easiest walking either. There were some hills, and the sandy soil was muddy in places. But I did enjoy the walk, and despite the lower bird count, I preferred it to my visit of Butler Nature Preserve earlier in the morning. I did have a group of Brown-headed Nuthatches squeaking at me, and I was glad for the company. I managed to get a quick snapshot of this busy fellow.
More interesting than the birds were these large grasshoppers that would pop up and fly onto a tree when I walked by. I’ve never seen them before. When I got home I was able to identify them as American Bird Grasshoppers.
So, that’s it for Hoke County. I have a big trip coming up next week with the Carolina Bird Club, which is having a meeting at the Outer Banks. I’ve never birded there and it is supposed to be a fantastic location, so I am excited. I will be covering as many counties as possible while I am in the area, due to its distance from me. By staying a couple of extra days I should be able to do 7 counties, which would put me ahead of schedule. I may be able to do one county before I leave, we will see…