Lake Crabtree County Park
Habitats: Mixed deciduous/pine forest, lake, small open floodplain.
Key birds: Winter: Bald Eagle, Brown Creeper and waterfowl. Year-round: Brown-headed Nuthatch. Migration: Warblers and other neotropical migrants.
Best times to bird: Year-round, especially spring migration.
Description: Lake Crabtree County Park is located near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Wake County. The park consists of 215 forested acres adjacent to a 520-acre impoundment. Very little of the park is inaccessible to birders on foot, and many of the pathways are wheelchair accessible.
Directions: Take Interstate 40 to Exit 285. The park is located ¼ mile south of the interchange on the left.
Birding Highlights: During the spring, park in the first lot on the right after entering the park and scan for shorebirds, swallows, and lingering waterfowl. Early migrants including Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary, Spotted and Least Sandpipers, and Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows which begin to appear in late March. From early to mid-April look along trails for Northern Parula, Worm-eating and Yellow-throated Warblers, Ovenbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Red-eyed Vireo. A few weeks later, in late-April through early May nearly any eastern warbler, flycatcher, or vireo might be seen.
During the summer look for Bald Eagle, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Wood Thrush, Summer Tanager, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Red-eyed, Yellow-throated and White-eyed Vireos.
Fall migration is often as good at Lake Crabtree as any other location in the Raleigh/Durham area. Nearly any eastern warbler is possible here, with American Redstart, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Black-and-white, and Bay-breasted Warblers commonly seen. Also, watch for migrant tanagers, vireos, thrushes, and flycatchers. The best birding this time of year is a cool September or early October morning after a cold front has swept through the area. The best sites in park are along the edges of the woods bordering the open play area near the first parking lot and at the end of the entrance road at the boat ramp area.
A three story enclosed observation tower provides protection from the wind as well as an excellent vantage point from which to view the lake. The tower can be reached from the Boat House parking lot. Wintering species commonly include Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, and Hooded Merganser. Also, check for less common species such as Long-tailed Duck, Black and White-winged Scoters, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, and Common Merganser. During any month, but especially during fall and winter, look for Bald Eagles soaring above the lake or perched in one of the tall pines on the far shore. In addition to the waterfowl viewing opportunities, check trees for woodpeckers and along edges for other wintering passerines.
General Information: Restroom and picnic facilities, water fountains, and snack machines are available in the park. Restaurants and other facilities are located at exits to the east and west of the park along Interstate 40. The park is open daily at 8:00 a.m. and closes at dusk. The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.
DeLorme map grid: page 40, C1
North Carolina Travel Map grid: H2
For more information: Lake Crabtree Park Office, (919) 460-3390; http://www.wakegov.com/county/parks/lakecrabtree/