North Carolina county #93

Uwharrie National Forest - Thornburg Tract

Yesterday I went to Uwharrie Mountains National Forest.  This is a smaller National Forest, at around 51,000 acres, but it still dwarfs all of the state parks.  These mountains are the oldest in North America, and sit a good bit east of the western mountains in North Carolina.  They are actually in the Piedmont region, an hour east of Charlotte.

I’ve only been here once before, but I need to start coming back.  The furthest parts of it are only one and a half hours from me and it is real wilderness; there is always a different feel to the well-marked trails in a park compared to trails in the wild, even when they are well-traveled.  The area I went to in Randolph County is called the Thornburg Tract, presumably after the Thornburg homestead at the trailhead.  It is part of the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness, which is a 5000 acre section of Uwharrie National Forest.  Wilderness areas are a special designation meant for areas that should be “where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”.

As I mentioned, there is an old homestead at the start of the trail.  At first I was unsure about walking the trail, because it looked like an inhabited house at first look.  In the back are some old outbuildings with signs identifying them as a barn, chicken house, carriage house, etc., some dating back to 1900.

There was a light rain while I was there, and after the last incident with rain and my camera, I didn’t want to risk it.  So I took my backup camera, which I now always bring along and has better weather sealing.  Besides the rain, the temperature was cool and I was really loving the area.  There was a lot of bird activity and I saw no one.  Despite the rain and my lesser camera, I was able to get a few photos of birds.

Northern Flicker flying by some Cedar Waxwings (fixed identification thanks to Matt!)

There were a large number of White-throated Sparrows and American Robins around, generating a good bit of noise.  I saw both species of Kinglet and four species of Woodpecker.

Pileated Woodpecker

The Pileated is so amazing when you see him close up in the woods.  He was quite a treat.  I also managed to spy a Fox Sparrow, which is only my second ever sighting.  I even saw a large flock of Double-crested Cormorants fly over.  I would have stayed longer, but I was nervous because this area is hunted, and I had forgotten to bring any orange to wear.  In fact, I was dressed in all blacks and earth tones, which is really not good for walking around the woods during hunting season.  So I headed back after being only about a half mile in, whistling a tune as I went.

I did run into a hunter back at the parking lot.  He seemed like a nice guy, and I thought I detected an Italian accent – not something you hear often in the middle of the Piedmont of North Carolina.

This is a great spot, and the trail goes on for miles.  I would definitely come back and explore this area some more.

ebird checklist

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