North Carolina county #26 Morrow Mountain State Park
This Thursday I went to Morrow Mountain State Park in Stanly County. This place is pretty close to me – only a little over an hour; so I’d heard of it and was hoping it could be a nice place to return with the family occasionally. There are a good number of trails winding around four mountains and a lot to choose from. After reading about the trails a month or so ago I was planning to do the Fall Mountain trail. However, I was near to chickening out the day of the trip as I wasn’t sure I wanted to do a 4.1 mile trail that was marked moderate, and appeared to go over a mountain.
I drove into the park and stopped at a random parking lot, but the only trail nearby was very short. I drove away and decided to find a different trail but the park is a little confusing so I stopped near a sign with a map. When I got out there was a nice guy who worked at the park and asked if I needed help. When I told him I was looking for a good trail to go birding on, he suggested Fall Mountain trail as a place a friend of his goes for that purpose. So, with no other ideas, I headed towards the trail with the directions the man gave me.
Following the park road, I came to Lake Tillery. The parking lot the man mentioned wasn’t there but I got out to look around. The first bird I saw was a Horned Grebe, which is an uncommon bird and only my second sighting. The first time I saw one was on Cane Creek and I had left the memory card out of my camera, so I was glad to get a shot of him for the record, although he was very far away.
The morning light was reflecting on the lake and I took this interesting shot as he was flying away.
I also got a brief look at an Osprey (although I saw more of them later) and some gulls in the distance. A Park Ranger came over to chat with me while I was there – he appeared to be into birding somewhat and also knew of some other animals I could look for. He also said the Fall Mountain trail was good and told me which way to start out on it to make it a little bit easier – and he told me how to get into the parking lot. After he left a lady stopped by and chatted with me about birding. She was looking forward to the beginning of migration season and told me that she was a 5th grade teacher and her students were arriving by bus shortly for a field trip. I told her about the Carolina Bird Club and that the next trip was coming up soon in Winston-Salem.
After a bit, I left the lake to start on the trail. I was glad to see the Grebe but didn’t have a chance to see much more birds as the school bus was arriving.
The trail actually turned out to be a mild incline for a long way which made getting to the top of the mountain not too strenuous. I saw a lot of birds along the way, and a total of 34 species which is pretty good for me.
The only downside was the fact that they had recently done a controlled burn over most of the area the trail was on. I know the benefits of these burns, but they sure do turn the forest into an eyesore at times.
The woodpeckers were out in full force and I saw a lot of Red-Headed Woodpeckers near the top of the slope. They seemed even more numerous here than Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge – which is where I typically see them reliably.
I stopped and ate a snack at the top of the mountain. The view wasn’t spectacular but it was nice. This really was a nice day and I was enjoying my long walk. Eventually I came back down to one side of the lake for the final half mile or so. I got some distance shots of a Bald Eagle carrying nesting material, and also saw a couple of Ospreys again.
I ran into a guy fishing with his sons. They weren’t catching much but he told me about a large Eagle nest he had seen on that side of the lake for years. The kids followed me and were fairly persistent in telling me their stories. They seemed like pretty smart little kids and pointed out a few things for me to take photos of.
On my way out I decided to take a quick drive up Morrow Mountain. You can actually drive all the way to the peak, so I figured I’d see if the view was any good.
Anyway, this was a great day. I saw lots of birds and enjoyed a nice hike through the woods. The migrants have not started appearing yet though. I am definitely excited for the coming months.