McAlpine Creek Park and Greenway
Habitats: Mixed pine/hardwood, upland oak/hickory, floodplain, beaver pond, flooded hardwood forest.
Key birds: Summer: Green Heron, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Acadian flycatcher, Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-Breasted Chat, White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos, Wood Thrush, Orchard Oriole. Winter: Swamp Sparrow, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets. Year-round: Red-bellied and Hairy Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Wood Duck, Great Blue Heron, Barred Owl, Red-Shouldered Hawk, and Belted Kingfisher.
Best times to bird: Year-round and fall/spring migration.
Description: The most interesting feature is an active beaver pond easily viewed from several trails. Well-marked and well-maintained trails circle a fishing lake and provide easy access to all habitat types.
Directions: McAlpine Creek Park is located at 8715 Monroe Road in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is about a half-mile south of the intersection of Monroe Road and Village Lake Drive. A large sign marks the entrance to the park and large parking lot.
Birding highlights: Park at the far corner of the parking lot near the soccer field. Follow the trail from this corner over the iron bridge to the fishing lake. In summer look for swallows and Chimney Swifts over the water and Orchard Orioles in the surrounding small trees. Yellow Warblers are often seen here in the spring. Pied-billed Grebe is occasionally seen in the winter. Skirt the edge of the lake to the left to the beaver pond. As you walk along the left side of the pond, look for Wood Duck, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, and Red-shouldered Hawk. The trail enters a flooded woodland. In extremely wet weather the trail may be impassable, but this is rare. In summer look for Green Heron, Prothonotary Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Great Crested Flycatcher. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is here in the winter, and Red-bellied and Hairy Woodpeckers are present year-round. The trail leads to mixed pine/hardwood forest. Look for Pine Warblers and Brown-headed Nuthatches, and in the winter for Golden-crowned Kinglets. When you've seen enough of the pond, retrace your steps past the pond and follow the first trail to the right. It meanders through floodplain forest and field edge thickets. In summer the thickets host Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Common Yellowthroat. In winter watch for sparrows. The wooded sections of the trail are good for Acadian Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Wood Thrush in the summer. Hooded Warbler is present some summers, and Barred Owl can be heard calling year-round. Check the athletic fields for Eastern Bluebird and Killdeer. After heavy rains in the spring and fall check puddles for Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary, Spotted, and Pectoral Sandpipers. The trails create a complex system of interlocking loops, but as long as you keep your eye on the general location of McAlpine Creek, you won't get lost in this popular park.
General information: Restrooms and water fountains are available at the park office. A dog exercise area, picnic tables, and athletic fields are also located within the park. The park opens at sunrise and closes at dark daily. On weekday afternoons and some Saturdays in the fall the trails are used for cross-country practices and meets. No food is sold at the park, but many convenience stores and restaurants are within ¼ mile of the park entrance.
DeLorme map grid: page 57, D6
North Carolina Travel Map grid: F3
For more information: Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department (704) 598-8857. http://www.charmeck.org/Departments/Park+and+Rec/Places+To+Go/Parks/McAlpinePK.htm