Durant Nature Preserve
John I. Connors
Habitats: Pine forest, mixed pine/hardwood, upland oak/hickory; Sim's and Reedy Branch floodplains, small lakes.
Key birds: Summer: Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Blue Grosbeak. Winter: Brown Creeper. Year-round: Red-headed Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and owls.
Best times to bird: Year-round.
Description: Durant Nature Preserve was formerly known as Camp Durant, headquarters for the Occoneechee Council of the Boy Scouts, but the City acquired the site in 1979. The habitat is heavily forested with stands of mixed hardwoods alongside planted pines. The park encompasses 237 acres, making it the largest land-based park in the Raleigh system. A paved Greenway Trail adjoins the Park, providing a linear park connection upstream toward the dam at Falls Lake, and downstream toward Perry Creek and the Neuse River.
Directions: The Park is in north Raleigh. Take Capital Blvd. (US 1) north. Turn left on Durant Road. After crossing railroad tracks, turn left on Camp Durant Road. Follow Camp Durant Road into the park. There is both a north entrance, at 8305 Camp Durant Road, and a south entrance, off Gresham Lake Road. Each is about 1 mile west of US 1 north, just north of the intersection of Raleigh's I-540 (Outer) Beltline with US 1 north.
Birding Highlights: Over 160 species of birds have been recorded at Durant Nature Preserve with 73 species known to have nested here. In the summer the Park is a reliable site to find Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Belted Kingfisher, Acadian Flycatcher, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wood Thrush, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers.
It is best to start at the north parking area off Camp Durant Road. Below the lot is the Training Lodge facility, and beside it is a Bird and Butterfly Garden. In summer look for Ruby-throated Hummingbird and American Goldfinch. Brown-headed Nuthatch is a frequent visitor to the feeders in the garden. Look for Eastern Bluebird and Great Crested Flycatcher around the nest boxes. Cedar Waxwing and Blue-headed Vireo have been found nesting here on occasion. In winter the large pines attract mixed flocks with Carolina Chickadee, Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creeper and an occasional Red-breasted Nuthatch.
From the Training Lodge area you have three trail options. If you have time and interest to hike three miles, follow the old camp road on your right toward the trail head of the Park's Border Trail. This is the most extensive trail in the park and will deliver you through a diverse set of habitats. A second option is the 1-mile Lakeside Trail. To access this trail you simply follow the paved trail down the hill past the Training Lodge until you come to the 12-acre lake. The trail encircles the lake. A third option is the half-mile Secret Creek Trail, which follows a short, though beautiful section of Reedy Branch, a creek forming the northern boundary of the park. This trail provides access to miles of paved greenway, which runs from Falls Lake to the Perry Creek and the Neuse River. The Secret Creek Trailhead is next to the Park office, below the left side of the parking lot.
The Border Trail begins along the upper section of Reedy Branch, a small tributary of the Neuse River that forms the northern boundary of the park. The paved greenway on the other side of the creek bisects neighborhoods as it meanders toward Falls Lake to the north and Perry Creek to the south. The creek's floodplain provides habitat for Barred Owl, Acadian Flycatcher, and Wood Thrush. Louisiana Waterthrush and Hooded Warbler formerly nested here and occasionally are heard in summer. Dead trees are used by Red-headed Woodpecker. The trail soon veers left from the creek and the floodplain broadens. Red-eyed Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Scarlet Tanager are reliable breeders. Eastern Wood-Pewee is occasional. This area is excellent for neotropical migrants in spring and fall. In winter watch for Winter Wren flushing from brush piles or root tangles. Gradually the trail climbs to join an old roadbed, which separates a planted pine forest from a mixed forest. Wood Thrush and Ovenbird may be found in summer and Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pine Warbler, and Eastern Towhee are reliable year-round. Hermit Thrush is common in winter.
The trail crosses a small creek then veers downhill and crosses Sim's Branch 200 yards above the beaver wetland complex and a 6-acre lake. A sewer easement runs parallel to the creek. Green and Great Blue Herons can be found here, and Wood Duck and Eastern Screech-Owl usually nest in boxes in the beaver ponds. Red-shouldered Hawk, Eastern Kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, and Indigo Bunting are typical in summer. During migration look for Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers on the mudflats. In winter there are flocks of White-throated, Field, Swamp and Song Sparrows. Mixed flocks of kinglets, nuthatches, Brown Creeper and more can be found among the pines and Yellow-rumped Warbler and Cedar Waxwing are common.
Continuing on the trail, you come to an old home site. The main trail continues straight ahead, but a loop veers to the right. An emerging second growth forest between these two trail loops has recently hosted nesting Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat and Indigo Bunting. If you continue on the main trail you will come to an overlook of the Beaver Pond, marsh and upper reaches of the 6-acre pond. Canada Goose, Wood Duck, and Mallard often nest here. In addition, Belted Kingfisher and Northern Rough-winged Swallow nest in a nearby embankment. Look for Red-shouldered Hawk, Pileated and Red-headed Woodpeckers in the tree snags. The Border Trail eventually emerges at the dam of the 6-acre lake at which point you can walk back to the Training Lodge on the road to your left or take a section of the Lakeside Trail.
The Lakeside Trail is a 1 mile loop that encircles a 12-acre lake. The trailhead begins as a paved trail from the north parking lot. Follow the trail downhill, past the Training Lodge, until you arrive at the Lake's Boathouse. Follow the trail to your right. Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, Ovenbird, and Summer Tanager can often be found in summer. Look for Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and mixed flocks of kinglets in the trees, and waterfowl on the lake, in winter. Further up the trail you will approach the spillway from the upper lake. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Acadian Flycatcher are reliable in summer and Eastern Phoebe year-round. Look for Spotted Sandpiper and Louisiana Waterthrush feeding on the spillway during migration. The trail soon intersects with a park road. Take it to your left as it forms the dam of the upper lake. Look for waterfowl or waders on the 6-acre lake. Take the next trail to your left as it enters a hardwood forest. Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-eyed Vireo, Wood Thrush, Great Crested Flycatcher and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are common in summer and Winter Wren in winter.
The Secret Creek Trail is a short loop that begins in mixed pinewoods then follows a narrow floodplain with water flowing over rock outcrops. It's a beautiful trail though with limited bird diversity in summer. Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Wood Thrush and Summer Tanager are common and Louisiana Waterthrush is sometimes seen foraging in the creek. It is an excellent area, however, during migration when many neotropical migrants are attracted to the water. Hermit Thrush and Winter Wren are commonly seen in winter.
General Information: Facilities include: a large banquet facility, an overnight lodge, a small boathouse, picnic shelters, and restrooms. The park is normally quiet in the morning. In summer there are large day camps at the park and banquets and picnics occur on many weekends throughout the year. Most of the park facilities, however, are concentrated at one end of the park and the rest remains undeveloped. Park gates open at 8 am and close at sunset.
DeLorme map grid: page 40, B3
North Carolina Travel Map grid: H2
For more information: City of Raleigh, Department of Parks and Recreation, (919) 831-6640