Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Seen a Wild Turkey in Durham?

It's turkey mating season and the turkeys are out and about in Durham and elsewhere in North Carolina.  They blend pretty well with the early spring brownish landscape, but you may have seen them along the roadside or flying across a field. Two days ago, driving down 15-501 towards Chapel Hill, a large wild turkey flew just in front of my car, no more than twelve feet off the ground.  That's the second time that's happened to me, although the first time was a much closer encounter in Yadkin County. That one almost came through my passenger side window, which, since the top speed of a flying turkey is 55 mph, would have been a very, very bad day for my car.

Wild turkey flying
A lesser known program called the Wildlife Restoration program through the NC Wildlife Commission has worked hard for the last ten years to restore the wild turkey population in the state. We humans are hard on wildlife, clearing land, building roads and otherwise destroying habitat.  Our tax dollars have been returned to naturalists and hunters alike through this program.  The photos below show the gains the wild turkey population has made in the last ten years in previously unpopulated areas:

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources has a page on their website, here, where you can report sightings, which is very helpful to track the progress of programs that the Wildlife Commission does. I have three to report now just after this past weekend!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Paddling the Tar-Pamlico Water Trail

Recently, our staff was invited to paddle the Tar-Pamlico River Water Trail by Heather Deck, riverkeeper for the Pamilico-Tar River Foundation, and Daniel McClure, an intern with the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation.  What a cool experience that was.  I've paddled many places but I truly saw more wildlife on this ten-mile paddle than I have on most rivers in the area.  The day initially looked sketchy weather-wise with forecast highs in the upper 40's and rain, but the rain cleared out and though we didn't really see the sun, we were comfortable in our boats when the temperatures rose into the upper 50's.  
We put in in Rocky Mount in a nice, wide stretch of the river. The water level was up enough that the current kept us clipping along at a good pace without having to work too terribly hard, which made for decent photo opportunities.  Even in the overcast, chilly weather, the wildlife were hopping: wood ducks, mallards, a pileated woodpecker,kingfishers, barred owls, hawks, turtles and beavers all made appearances. Well, saw might be overstating the beaver sighting on my part, at least--one created a ruckus as we passed by, sliding down the bank and then briefly stalking us under water, which we could see from the air bubble trail it left behind.  I think Daniel and Ryan were quicker on the draw and saw the beaver clambering down the bank.

A beaver slide along the banks

Heather and Daniel were fantastic hosts, knowledgeable about the local wildlife and fauna and easy paddle partners. It takes a great deal of work and salesmanship to fund efforts like this one, and a good rapport with volunteers willing to give of their free time to help build structures. The platforms are pretty sweet camping locations--screened in sleeping areas with a nice deck and picnic table. Take-outs are easy, too.  Starting at the head of the Tar River and ending in Beaufort, the Tar-Pamlico Water Trail will eventually have platforms 8-15 miles apart once it's completed so that paddlers on this end of the state will have multiple routes and campsites to choose from.  Platforms must be reserved and there is a minimal fee; more information about that is here.  
All in all, a great day on the water--is there such a thing as a bad day on the water?  We're grateful to our hosts for sharing this with us, and DPR Outdoor Recreation is definitely planning a fall trip down the river, so keep an eye out for the fall programming schedule!

Giant fungi on a downed tree
Having a picnic at the Vollmer Farm platform with Daniel and Heather.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Season of Muddy Boots and Waterfalls

In my house, muddy boots are a way of life and this rainy, snowy, cold winter hasn't offered relief from the mud. As I write this, four pairs of dirty, well-used boots sit in the foyer, waiting for the next foray into the wet, muddy trails of Durham.  I have to admit, though, that I like the mud, the extra work it takes to get to remote locations and the way that being muddy after a day outdoors makes me feel like I've earned the experience.
Ryan and I took a little bushwhacking hike through the woods two days ago at the Spruce Pine Lodge in Bahama, adjacent to Lake Michie, and found that the melting snow had created a real, rushing, foaming waterfall in the normally placid creek that runs down to Lake Michie.  This place, with its rocky outcroppings, rhododendron and laurels reminds me of my favorite spots in western North Carolina where I would sit and read a book or just soak up the sound of water maneuvering its way through the maze of rocks. Well worth the trek through the muck in a pair of knee-high Bogs--my hiking boots would be no match for that sodden soil--to see the melting snow change this from a meandering flow to a raging river.

Waterfall on the Waterfall trail at the Spruce Pine Lodge