Return of the Osprey

March 16, 2012


Herb Amyx and I continued our explorations of the undocumented areas of the Park around the Osprey nesting site.   The trail wanders down through piney woods where large oak trees still mark the sites where farmhouses existed until the land was acquired in 1978 by the U.S. Corps of Engineers in preparation for the damming of theNeuseRiver.   One wonders how any farming succeeded on the hilly slopes, but we did spot the remains of a few Mangum terraces.

As we neared the nesting site, the Ospreys took to the air.  It was not clear whether we startled them or whether they were reacting to the approach of a fisherman in his small boat.  Despite our view being obstructed by the trees, I was amazed at the spread of the Ospreys’ wings as they left the belt of trees and headed to the far bank of the lake.  It was heartening to know that the pair have returned to the nest this year.

We wandered through the trees parallel to the edge of the lake, casting our eyes down to search for wildflowers.  Our first reward was spotting Rue anemone just coming into bloom.  Each plant was well separated from the next and each had just a solitary blossom.  One would think that a colony would consist of clumps of plants, but not so. 


 Then to my delight we spotted newly emerged Mayapples under the Hornbeam trees.  This is the first place where I have spotted Mayapples at theB.W.WellsPark, so it is a welcome addition to our knowledge of the Park.  Both the Mayapples and Rue anemone were growing on a hillslope that faced north.   Our third find was colonies of Oxalis growing alongside the Mayapples.  That seemed odd to me as I normally associate Oxalis with more sunny areas.

Traversing further, we reached the belt of buckeyes, which in the space of two weeks had opened their leaves completely.  As a photographer, I was disappointed that none of the leaves showed any trace of bronze color on the leaves – they were all green.  It is the bronze contrast that adds so much to the photographic images.  A short distance along, we reached the colony of pawpaw trees, which seemed to have made no progress in two weeks.  The leaf buds were still tightly clasped.  Good, that gives us an excuse for another excursion later on. 


Overall we were struck by how much further advanced the wildflowers are along the Eno River at Penny’s Bend in Durham County, than along the Neuse River at Stony Hill in Wake County.  Surely there cannot be that much difference in daily temperatures.  Or is it the soil type that makes the difference?  Penny’sBendis in the heart of the diabase dike region, while Stony Hill soils are of varied types from an island arc formation,

Finally I was very amused to find a Cranefly orchid, (and a Japanese honeysuckle) gowing in this hollow tree.



Hughen Nourse

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2 Responses to Return of the Osprey

  1. Jason S. says:

    Hi. I’m a hobby photographer with a interest in birds. Can you give me some tips on where best to photograph osprey along the Neuse river. I live near the Falls Lake Dam and would prefer to find a site in Wake county.

    Great photos of the wild flowers by-the-way!

    Jason S.

    • Jason: The ospreys are gone for this year. They migrate mostly to South America, but also to coastal Central America and even to Florida. We sometimes have one hang around in a mild winter, but usually they are all gone. They should return in early March and April. Time of arrival varies from year to year. Although there may be some osprey sites along the Neuse River, most of the osprey are found at Falls Lake. In this area, they tend to prefer open expanses of water. I can think of 3 good spots to photograph ospreys in the Wake County portion of Falls Lake. There is an osprey platform nest at Blue Jay Park County Park which is always used by breeding osprey. It can be seen best at the bottom of the trail leading down from the lodge to the edge of the lake. There are several other points near there, where clear shots of the birds and the nest can be taken. A second site is an osprey platform nest at the Shinleaf Campground. It is near the campsite titled appropriately “Osprey Nest” in the Group Camping section. The nest is close to the shore allowing for good photographs, but the birds often fly away if someone approaches closely. The third site is the B. W. Wells State Recreation Area, where there are two good spots. The first is below Rockcliff Farm on the trail between Zeagle’s Rock and Soapstone Point. The nest is in a pine tree at a small point just as the trail makes a 90 degree turn along the lake’s edge. There is also a platform nest, the one mentioned in the blog, which is located at the end of an old road that runs through a heavily wooded area. The road is on the right, just as the main paved road turns left toward the group campground. In both cases, it is tough to approach closely without disturbing the ospreys. There are probably other places as well, but these are the first that come to mind. Herb Amyx


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