Below are descriptions of great places to see
interesting animals and plants, many in the Durham, NC area (and on the side,
thumbnails to click on to see bigger pictures). They include links to other pages on this website
and/or to other websites describing them. I have
also listed my favorite animals and plants there (and which appear in photos
elsewhere on this website). Also see the
Swamp Animals Page. Jump down to a North Carolina County Map
or view historical weather in a variety of cities.
American Tobacco Trail, Durham, NC: A pavement
trail constructed where old railroad tracks were, leading from downtown
Durham six miles south; mowing of vegetation to the sides of the trail
is forbidden. Wildflowers seen include Common Purslane (pictured),
Common Wild Quinine, Queen Anne's Lace, Sourwood, Muscadine Grapes,
Cornflowers, Asian Dayflowers, Kudzu, Flossflowers, Red Morning Glories
(Redstars), Bitter Sneezeweed, Wisteria, Sassafras, Pokeweed and Common
Ragweed. Animals seen include march flies, blister beetles,
Monarch butterflies, Sachems, Crossline Skippers, Silver-spotted
Skippers, horse flies, leaffooted bugs, ground sac spiders, Bess
Beetles, Asian Multi-colored Ladybug Beetles and jumping plant lice.
Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston County, SC. This used to be a rice
plantation. Animals: Anhingas,
Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, White Ibises, Blue-winged Teals
Anoles, Common Moorhens, Swamp Sparrow, Yellowbelly Sliders, and
American Alligators. The latter two species coexist peacefully to
a surprising degree. Pictured: an Anhinga. Visit their website .
Louis, Hancock County, MS: A small town on the Mississippi Gulf
Coast, about 50 miles east of New Orleans. It is located on an
inlet with an irregular shape, giving it a great variety of habitats,
ranging from Gulf coast to dense marshes. Animals seen there are a
parakeet, Horned Grebes, Giant Swallowtails (both caterpillars and
adults), a Chinch Bug, Long-tailed Skippers, Variegated Meadowhawks,
Chinese Geese, Canada Geese, Snowy Egrets, Killdeers,
Buffleheads, Swamp Sparrows, Horned Grebes, Brown Pelicans and
Brackish-water Fiddler Crabs. Red Spider Lilies and Lantanas grow
wild in fields there. Hurricane Katrina caused massive damage, but
sculptor Marlin Miller produced public art by carving dead trees into
repesentations of people and aquatic animals.
Bogue Banks, Carteret County, NC. This
is a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina; it is linked to the
mainland via bridges to Swansboro and Morehead City. It includes
Fort Macon State Park, the Theodore Roosevelt Natural Area and several
municipalities including Atlantic Beach and Pine Knoll Shores.
Animals: Tiger beetles (Cicindela dorsalis and marginata), bee flies,
White Ibises, Ospreys, Sand Fiddler Crabs, Seaside Dragonlets (a species
of dragonfly), sharpshooters and Zebra Heliconians (in the summer of 2008,
anyway!) Northern Mockingbirds dominate the land. Pictured:
A Passionvine (Passiflora genus) flower
Boone,Watauga County, NC and neighboring counties: in the northwestern corner
of North Carolina, in
the Blue Ridge Mountains and some areas south and west. Animals:
Many butterflies in Boone in 2008 (especially Pipevine Swallowtails,
Silver-spotted Skippers, Aphrodite Fritillaries, Great Spangled
Fritillaries, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Peck's Skippers, a Harvester,
as well as a few Orange Sulphurs), a Striped Lynx spider, praying
mantises, a Golden Tortoise Beetle, Ambush Bugs, White-lined Burrower
Bugs, several stink bug nymphs. Off the Blue Ridge Parkway, saw an
unusual picture-winged fly, many Scorpionflies, many tachinid flies and
Great Spangled Fritillaries. Pictured: a Tarnished Plant Bug on a
Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) flower.
Buccaneer State Park, Waveland, Hancock County, MS: This park right
at the beach experienced substantial damage from Hurricane Katrina, but
it has an intriguing new look, with a meandering path built into dense
new growth. It was recently visited by numerous Monarch
butterflies although no milkweed was apparent. Other animals seen
were Gulf Fritillaries, Common Buckeyes and a relatively unusual
Megachilid bee (Coelioxys mexicana).
Carolina Beach (in town): There's a lot of interesting life in the
populated areas of Carolina Beach. Pictured is a Wild Poinsettia
(Euphorbia heterophylla) normally found not much farther than Florida,
but which appeared during an unusually hot summer. Lake Park draws
a large number of bird species; those seen there are Wood Ducks, Brown
Pelicans, American Coots, Killdeers, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Great
Egrets, Lesser Yellowlegs, Pied-Bill Grebes, Redhead ducks, Tricolored
Herons, Red-winged Blackbirds, Lesser Scaups, Common Starlings, Northern
Mockingbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles, Rock Doves. A Blue Swede and a
Chinese Goose were there for two years.
Carolina Beach State Park, New
Hanover County, NC: With its long-leaf pine-dominated white sand
landscape, containing a water lily pond and several other less permanent
ponds, it has few animals, but a relatively large proportion are local
to this area. Animals include the Cicindela gratiosa Tiger Beetle,
Golden Silk Spiders, the Southern Bee Killer (an unusual type of Robber Fly), the Carolina Saddlebags
the Little Blue Dragonlet, Wharf Crabs, Cedar Waxwings, American Snout
Butterflies and common species
such as Cloudless Sulphurs, Common Buckeyes, Monarchs, Gulf
Fritillaries, Southern Pearly Eyes and the
occasional Eastern Tailed Blue and Sleepy Orange. Pictured: Venus
Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula). Go to
National Wildlife Refuge (ferry area): Most people who come here do
it to catch a ferry to Ocracoke Island. There is a beautiful beach
for those with leisure time to explore. The bird species here are
limited: House Sparrows, Boat-tailed Grackles, Common Starlings, Brown
Cowbirds and Northern Mockingbirds.
Craggy Mountain, off the Blue
Ridge Parkway, Macon County, NC. This approx. 5500-feet tall
mountain is covered mainly with Angelica on top (where Craggy Gardens is
located), with some mountain phlox and blueberry bushes, but its wooded
sides have the really interesting fauna, such as Common Scorpionflies
and the pictured leafhopper (Evacanthus ustanucha, subfamily Cicadellinae
[Hamilton, 1986]), which has been sighted only on two other Blue
Duke Forest Gate #12, Durham, NC: This is a power line cut
with varied scrub plants. Animals: A Springtime Darner, Checkered
Skippers, Variegated Fritillaries, Orange Sulphurs,
Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Mantid egg cases,
and jumping spiders. Visit their website.
Duke Forest, Korstian Division,
Orange County, NC: The trail here is near to the banks of New Hope
Creek, bordering a thick forest. An unusual number of uncommon
species show up here. Animals: Mormidea lugens (stink bug), Wheel
Bug nymph, unidentified click beetle, Ground Skink, Harvester
butterflies, Oak Treehopper. Pictured: a foot-wide Tooth Fungus (Hericium erinaceus),
with ID made referring
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Durham, NC: A large cultivated garden,
with an Asian plant section that also attracts relatively unusual
Great Blue Herons, exotic ducks, a Common Sanddragon, Dion Skippers, Eastern Amberwings,
a Clavate Tortoise Beetle, Variegated Fritillaries, a Question Mark,
Eastern Amberwings, a leafhopper (Sibovia occatoria, subfamily Cicadellinae).
Pictured: flowering Lotus plants.
Durham, NC:"My neighborhood swamp": This was once a duckweed-covered swamp fronted by a marsh with
several types of grasses including cattails and false nutsedge, although
the marsh has taken over after several droughts. I have seen a Green Heron, a Great
Blue Heron, a Lesser Yellowlegs, many Canada Geese, flocks of
mourning doves and a number of songbirds including an Indigo Bunting
American Goldfinches in the swamp part, while Red-winged Blackbirds are
sometimes found in the cattails. Insects seen in the
marsh include several species of Ladybug Beetles (both adults and
larvae), most commonly the Coleomegilla genus beetles, Soft-winged
Flower Beetles, Rice Stink Bugs, Two-lined Froghoppers (Prosapia
bicincta), Common Buckeyes, Dion Skippers, Fiery Skippers, Toad Bugs, Shore Bugs, Marsh
Flies, Flower Flies, Wolf Spiders, Six-spotted Fishing Spiders, Marsh
Beetles, Citrine Forktails, Fragile Forktails and
numerous grasshoppers. Ladybug Beetle
Pupae appeared on leaves of trees maybe 50 feet from the swamp's edge. Northern Cricket Frogs show
up at the marsh's periphery. Pictured is a Green Heron in
Durham, NC:My neighborhood powerline cut
mini-swamp. I have seen Golden and Clavate
Tortoise Beetle adults and a larva, a Burdock Beetle, a Lixus genus
weevil, a male Common Green Darner, a rhopalid bug, two courting stilt
bugs, several Northern Cricket Frogs and an American Toad mating pair.
Pictured: an adult Burdock Beetle eating a Horse Nettle leaf.
ditch that's a tributary of the Third Fork Creekis an optimal combination of both: it's
narrow enough for me to see most of the bottom, but the water is
practically still. I have photographed crayfish of all sizes and
relatively large members of several fish species (rainbow trout,
bluegill, madtom) there. Dragonflies, including Eastern Amberwings,
Great Blue Skimmers and Slaty Skimmers abound all summer. During
droughts, part of the creek has dried up, leaving little puddles in
which very small crayfish and tubifex worms were easily visible, while
Green Frogs sat on the dry parts of the creek bed. Pictured are Red
Maple blossoms (Acer rubrum) which fell into the ditch in early spring.
Eno River State Park, NC, Orange and Durham Counties:
The Old Cole
Mill Road Access has had a number of uncommon species until
recently, especially near Bobbitt's Hole, an area of locally deep water
in the Eno River. Animals: Brown
Snake (pictured), River Cooters, Yellowbelly Sliders, Common Wood Nymphs, Northern Pearly Eyes, Carolina
Satyrs, Delaware Skippers, Henry's Elfins, a Tawny Emperor,
Arrow-shaped Micrathenas, a Horse Fly, sharpshooters (a kind of leafhopper), a Banasa calva
stink bug, Wheel Bug nymphs,
a Fruit Fly (Tephritidae family), and
both two young (inch-long) and adult Praying Mantids, including two that were mating in the brushy power line cut.
Fews Ford Access has an interesting trail over Cox Mountain on
which appeared these animals: Sleepy Duskywings, Bess Beetles, a Velvet
Mite, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, adult Northern Fence Lizards and some
small Ground Skinks.
Flat River Impoundment, Durham
County, NC: Created by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources
Commission to provide an alternative to areas flooded by dams for
migrating birds, this place consists of artificially created ponds that
stay full of water even during droughts. It is perhaps most
notable for the great numbers of butterflies it attracts in mid-summer with its Common
Sneezeweed, e.g., Clouded Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, Sachems, Variegated
Fritillaries, Cabbage Whites, Tiger Swallowtails, Cloudless Sulphurs,
Sleepy Oranges, checkered skippers, Gray Hairstreaks, Silvery
Checkerspots, Zebra Swallowtails, Question Marks, Red Admirals and
Common Sootywings. It also has a few moths, e.g., Epipagis
huronalis, Tarache aprica, the Yellow-collared Scape Moth and the
Ailanthus Webworm. Other insects include the Asian Oak Weevil,
Brown Stink Bug, Field Cricket, Broad-headed Bug, flower flies
(Eristalis genus), picture-winged fly (Tritoxa genus), American Bird
Grasshopper and leaffooted bugs. Also seen were Common Milkweed,
Swamp Milkweed, White Morning Glories (Ipomoea lacuna)
Fort Fisher Recreational Area, New Hanover
County, NC: A very diverse group of habitats at the southern tip of
Pleasure Island, NC, ranging from Atlantic Ocean beach to expansive
marsh bordering the Cape Fear River; the Basin Trail runs through the
latter and ends at the mudflats pictured. Wildflowers seen there
include Forked Bluecurls, Rose Gentians, pennyworts, Firewheels, Bitter
Sneezeweed, Bushy Sea Oxeye Daisies, maybe Purple Bladderworts.
Animals seen were Queen butterflies, Monarch butterflies, Gulf
Fritillaries, Common Buckeyes, Question Mark butterflies, Hooded
Mergansers, White Ibises, Snowy Egrets, Turkey Vultures (landing),
Boat-tailed Grackles, Dunlins, dung beetles, Rock Slaters, Carolina
Mantises, Milkweed Bug nymphs, Sand Fiddler Crabs, Carolina
Saddlebags dragonflies, Eastern Mud Turtles, Megachilid bees, Red-headed
Woodpecker, Common Starlings, Great Blue Herons, Red-winged Blackbirds,
Tricolored Herons, Willets, Great Black-backed Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls,
robber flies, Crablike Spiny Orb Weavers, Yellow-and-black Argiopes,
cicadas, Red-banded Hairstreaks, Needham's Skimmers, Wandering Gliders,
Great Egrets and American Bitterns.
Downtown Greenville, Pitt County, NC: There is a small park on
the northern border of this area which was very springlike early in the
year. Animals: During a brief
pass through this area in mid-February, I saw a (very green) Orange Sulphur, a winter-form Sleepy Orange, and some some half-grown Rainbow Trout in a
Harrison County, MS: One of the biggest municipal beaches you'll
ever see is in this city. Black Skimmers abound here, as well as
Royal Terns,a few Semipalmated Plovers and various gulls. One
Dainty Sulphur showed up on a sidewalk.
Hanging Rock State Park, Stokes County, NC: Located in the Sauratown
Mountains, noted for their exposed rockfaces, this park features a lake,
Moore's Knob (altitude ~2500 feet) and Cook's Wall. Animals seen
include Sleepy Duskywing, Chrysomela descripta (leaf beetle), Mourning
Cloak, Hoplia trivia (scarab beetle), Oak Treehopper, Beelike Robber
Fly, Red-banded Hairstreak, Broadheaded Skink, Lichen Moth, a fungus
gnat and a Black Rat Snake. Plants seen include Fan Clubmoss,
Field Pansy, Halberd-leaved Violet, Carolina Hemlock, Fetterbush
(Mountain Andromeda), Common Groundpine and a pear tree.
River State Park, Guilford & Rockingham Counties, NC: This
park contains wooded, grassy and swamp areas, as well as a pond and the
headwaters of the Haw River. It is still under development,
so many relatively uncommon species are found here, such as Gray
Petaltail dragonflies, Appalachian Brown butterflies, One-spotted Tiger
Beetles, Glowworm Beetles and Sparkling Jewelwing damselflies, and a
mysterious aquatic insect. Some species common here are Calico
Pennants (near the pond late in the day), Spangled Skimmers (in grassy
areas), Whirligig Beetles, Black Horse Flies, and various skink species.
Pictured: Two Fire Pink (Silene virginica) flowers.
Indian Creek Wildlife Observation
Trail, a Jordan Lake Game Land, Chatham County, NC: Animals:
A Northern Water Snake, a
White-M Hairstreak, several Falcate Orangetips (first seen in late
March), Northern Cricket Frogs fairly far inland, a Dog-day Cicada
fighting off a wasp attack, arrow-shaped Micrathenas, Tiger Beetles (Six-spotted Green and Common Sidewalk),
a Bush Cricket, a Horse Fly (Tabanus Fulvulus), a Stilt Bug, a
Broad-headed Bug, a Banded Pennant, a Long-legged Fly, a Clay-colored
Beetle, an oakworm moth, a Star-bellied Spider, Common Baskettails, Gemmed Satyrs, Carolina Satyrs, Sleepy Duskywings, and Juvenal's Duskywings.
Pictured: a group of Crane Fly Orchid leaves. To see some animals from one expedition, see the
July 2006 expeditions page. NOTE:
The parking lot for this trail is currently closed.
Johnston Mill, Orange County, NC: A heavily wooded area with
trails going near New Hope Creek and crossing a power line cut. It
has relatively few insects, although regionally uncommon species represented are
disproportionately common there. Spiders are common, with some unusual
A Pileated Woodpecker and Downy Woodpeckers, Harvesters, a Praying
Mantis, Silvery Checkerspots,
a Menecletes Insertus Stink Bug, hawks (at least Red-shouldered Hawks) and White-tailed Deer. Pictured is part of a
Sugar Hackberry (Celtis laevigata) tree.
Jordan Lake Dam, Chatham County, NC: With Jordan Lake on one side
and the Haw River (which obviously never runs dry) on the other side,
this dam area is a big draw for birds and butterflies alike.
Pictured is a Great Blue Heron in the Haw River. The structure
over the gate controlling the lake level is a big draw for Turkey
Vultures, which also congregate in the road crossing the dam. The
far banks of the Haw River have several species of morning glories,
which drew Checkered Whites in 2010. Other butterfly species
appearing in the general area (mostly on the far side of the dam from
the parking lot) have been Little Yellows, Common Buckeyes, Sachems and
A Jordan Lake Game Land
(Chatham County), off Route
751 near the bridge: This trail is mainly used by bird hunters.
Species seen here is special abundance are Turkey Vultures, Variegated
Fritillaries, Northern Cricket Frogs, Yellow-and-black Argiopes, Pearl
Crescents, and Cloudless Sulphurs, as well as Midges and (in puddles)
Water Boatmen. Pictured: a Marsh Fleabane with ants and an inchworm on
Little Scaly Mountain, Macon County,
NC: Animals: A Sleepy Orange, a Beelike Tachinid Fly, and a
Fruit Fly (Tephritidae family).
Little Scaly Mountain is
located near the Georgia border and has an elevation of about 4100 feet.
Pictured: Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora) flower.
Carolina Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC: This
includes a nature trail through the woods as well as both cultivated
gardens and areas designed to resemble coastal and mountain habitats. Animals:
Eastern Comma, Black Rat Snake, Bullfrog, Green Frog, Acanaloniid
Planthopper Nymph, Orange Sulphurs, Gray Hairstreaks, Cedar Waxwings,
Cloudless Sulphurs, Pearl Crescents, American Ladies, Fiery Skippers,
and a few dragonflies. Pictured: Jack-in-the-Pulpit berries.
Go to their website.
Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, Orange County, NC:
An area of locally high elevation and unusual trees. Animals: Brown
Elfins (pictured), Common Wood Nymphs, Hoplia trivia scarab beetles
(farther up on the main mountain), Eastern
Tiger Swallowtails, Eastern Fence Lizards, various Duskywings, Zabulon
Skippers (on the power line cut), Blue Corporals on the mountain.
Near the pond, Common Baskettails and Lancet Clubtails.
Ocracoke Island, Hyde County, NC: Most
of this island is protected by the federal government and is
Animals: Red Admirals, Salt Marsh Skippers, Little Wood Satyrs, Argus
Tortoise Beetle, a Stilt-legged Fly, Ghost Crabs, a Black-crowned Night
Heron, Tricolored Herons, Cattle Egrets, Royal Terns, an American Coot,
a Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, a Great Crested Flycatcher, a
European Starling, Brackish-water Fiddler Crabs, American Oystercatchers, Ruddy
Turnstones, a Greylag Goose/Canada Goose couple and their offspring, and
a Juniper Hairstreak. Pictured: Prickly Pear cactuses (Opuntia
genus) and a Scallop shell.
Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham County, NC: A very unusual
habitat, with alkaline soil more characteristic of the Midwest.
Its best-known rare species are the Blue Indigo and the Smooth
Coneflower. Controlled burns in some areas keep trees from
dominating other flora. Animals: several species of
solitary bees (accompanied by Large Bee Flies), a Fawn Darner, a Calico
Pennant, many Widow Skimmers, Ashy Clubtails, a very
fancy Northern Cricket Frog, Six-spotted Green Tiger Beetles, Blue
Corporals, an American Snout, Checkered Skippers, Chinese Mantids,
Ambush Bugs, a Toad Bug, a Puss Caterpillar, graphocephalid leafhoppers,
a bright red Mirid Bug nymph and a Pselliopus cincta (a kind of assassin
bug). Pictured is a group of spring wildflowers including an Early
Saxifrage and some Trout Lilies.
Puerto Rico:Isla Verde (a
San Juan district) and nearby rural areas: Mystery skippers, Great
Southern Whites, a land-based hermit crab, snails with striped shells,
anoles, Antillean Grackles.MayaguŽz: Puerto Zoo animals.
Ponce: many Monarch
caterpillars on supersized milkweed plants. Pictured:
a rainbow over the Atlantic Ocean (looking northwards from Isla Verde).
River Park North, Greenville, Pitt County, NC:
This contains several habitats: an open field, a swamp with many very
large Water Tupelos and Bald Cypresses, a large lake and a power line cut. Animals: During a brief pass through this park in mid-February, I saw
several Great Blue Herons and two feral (wild members of imported
species) geese, a Gray Pomeranian and an Embden.
Park, Conover, Catawba County, NC: A winding path leads through a
wooded area. Pictured: a White-banded Crab Spider on a Sensitive
Brier flower. Other animals seen on one very brief trip through
the park: Carolina Mantis, Lace-winged Roadside Skipper, and Micrathena
gracilis and Micrathena mitrata spiders.
Sandy Creek Park, Durham, NC: A
trail goes along the side of Sandy Creek and leads to a greenway on
Durham city public property. Pictured: Lesser Celandine. A
great place to find hundreds of Boxelder Bugs in mid-March, it also has
a heavily populated, both by animals and plants, area near the parking
lot. Horsetails line the creek.
Santee State Park, Orangeburg County, SC: A beautiful natural area
covering parts of four counties. Animals seen: Tropical
Checkered Skipper, Duskywings, Large Bee Flies,
Common Baskettails, Falcate Orangetips. Pictured: water lilies in