White Pines Nature Preserve
Habitats: Rocky and Deep Rivers, white pines, heath/bluff on rocky slope, mesic mixed hardwoods, floodplain forest, upland forest with second growth oak-hickory woodland.
Key Birds: Summer: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireos, Summer Tanager, Gray Catbird, Acadian Flycatcher, Prothonotary Warbler, and Northern Parula. Winter: Brown Creeper, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Dark-eyed Junco, and Winter Wren.
Best Times to Bird: Early summer and spring and fall migration.
Description: The Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC) acquired White Pines Nature Preserve through a purchase in 1986. The site is located at the confluence of the Deep and Rocky Rivers and covers 258 acres. The Preserve is home to several stands of white pine with some trees over 150 years old and thirty inches in diameter. The forest is also host to catawba rhododendron, 200 year-old beech trees, and many wildflowers.
Directions: From Raleigh take US 64 west to Exit 383 (15-501) in Pittsboro. Drive south through Pittsboro, following the US 15-501 signs. Eight miles south of the Chatham County Courthouse traffic circle turn left on River Fork Road (SR 1958), which is the first left after crossing the Rocky River Bridge. Take a quick right turn, driving past forest and open farms. At 1.2 miles the road becomes gravel and bears to the left past a gated home. At the stop sign turn right onto South Rocky River. There will be a no outlet sign; in another .5 of a mile turn left and continue until the road ends at a small parking lot where you will see a TLC sign. From Chapel Hill take US 15-501 south to Pittsboro and follow the directions above from Pittsboro.
Birding Highlights: Fifty-five species of birds have been found during the breeding season. Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Prothonotary and Yellow-throated Warblers are among the ten species of warblers that are commonly found.
Begin birding as you approach the entrance to the Preserve. Along River Fork Road look for Eastern Bluebird on the wires, Red-shouldered Hawk perched in trees, and Indigo Bunting and sparrows along the edges. Take the White Pine Trail from the parking area and watch for Carolina Wren and Pine Warbler year round, and Red-eyed Vireo in the summer. There is often a great amount of activity as you reach the fork in the road. During winter look for Hermit Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco, and both kinglets. In the summer look for Carolina Chickadee, Acadian and Great Crested Flycatchers, and Eastern Wood-Pewee. At the fork in the road, you have the option of continuing straight to the Overlook Trail toward the bluffs overlooking the confluence of the rivers, or turning left to follow the trail down to the River Trail. The trail toward the river is where Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, and Yellow-throated Warbler are often heard singing. Just before you reach the Rocky River, you can take the School Kids Trail on the left, which takes a short loop to the river, then hooks back up with the River Trail. Be cautious as you hike over a few fallen trees, tree roots, and poison ivy along the edges of the trail. Look and listen for Belted Kingfisher along the river and watch for Great Blue and Green Herons searching for food. Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Scarlet and Summer Tanagers are possible in this area. Be sure to watch the sky for possible soaring Red-shouldered and Cooper's Hawks and Turkey Vulture. Continue past the Comet Trail sign, which leads back up to the main trail, for a wonderful view of the confluence of the Deep and Rocky Rivers. Continue on the trail to return to the River Trail.
General Information: No facilities are available on site. Restaurants and service stations are located in nearby Pittsboro. Open year-round.
DeLorme map grid: page 61, A5
North Carolina Travel Map grid: H3
For more information: Triangle Land Conservancy, (919) 833-3662;
Birding Guide for White Pines Preserve