The Raleigh Naturalist

February 22, 2009

News, Notes, and Promises

Walnut Creek greenway at Wetland Center

Walnut Creek greenway at Wetland Center

 Walnut Creek Wetland Park is approximately 59 acres in size and is located between Garner Road and South State Street and south of Peterson Street in Southeast Raleigh. This site contains extensive wetlands that are located near the downtown urban center and offer an opportunity for the public to easily explore and learn about the value and significance of wetlands for water quality and wildlife habitat.     Raleigh City website

      Construction has begun on  the  Walnut Creek Wetland Center, as reported in NandO on February 11.   The center is the culmination of efforts led by Norman Camp to rehabilitate and protect the wetlands of Raleigh’s Southeast.   This topo map shows the area. The new building, shown below, was designed by Frank Harmon, and will stand six feet above the ground and have a minimal ecological footprint.  An earlier post describes some amenities of this section of greenway.

                         walnut-center-side_1_1                         walnut-wetlands-center-front_1_1



    The groundhog definitely saw his shadow, but early signs of spring abound in Raleigh.  Above is henbit between Hodge Road and Crabtree.  Below are red maples blossoms in Oakwood.  There is some cold air coming, so there will be some casualties – though our well-mulched garden parsley and “spinach under glass” on the deck are doing great!



     One of the exciting things about Raleigh Nature is the wonderful reader input, and I need to follow up and post about more of it.  There’s always a tension between getting around to it and doing it justice.  Here are a few smoldering issues on my draft posts:

First and most behind: responding to the multiple inputs about Lassiter Mill and Raleigh mill history.  From David’s great pics of the upper water, to the amazing Lassiter mill drive wheel images sent by Jimmy, and the history and memories in the comments, we need to return to this subject soon!  I recently got a fascinating inquiry from Carol about the infilled Lake Boone, and the natural springs that fed it, and I want badly to follow that up.  I very much appreciated the mistletoe tips from Meredith, and dream of my “pecans and mistletoe” map of Raleigh!  Scott, a well-known author, my old friend Joe, and Tommy, a songwriter from my past, all greatly helped my still-unfinished exploration of the Pigeon House Branch system and the expensive new Fletcher Water Park that feeds into it.  We’ve been blessed with an explanation of Raleigh Swamp’s waters by Mark, who engineered it, and we’ve been sobered by the plea for resolution from Deborah concerning Ward Transformer’s lifetime of ecological crimes against our area.    I look forward to sharing Patti’s wonderful hawk story, and keeping Michiel in the Netherlands all caught up on Raleigh’s natural scene.  Mentioning these highlights, many thanks to all who have written or commented.  It really helps the work!


Oakwood maple

Oakwood maple

     Chris Crew and Matthew Brown just wrote a wonderful article about Oakwood wildlife for our neighborhood newsletter.They are neighbors at the bottom of the slope at whose crest I reside. Between my house and theirs almost every inch is controlled by humans, and the water flowing downhill is piped or culverted.  Below their house, toward Brookside and Glascock, the land opens up just a bit and has some natural edges. As a matter of fact, Chris is uncovering  the section of Grassy Branch in his backyard, and that’s another topic on my to-do list.  Just across the road, though, is Oakwood Cemetery, a significant oasis for many living things.  According to their article, our neighborhood boasts a huge variety of species. Among many bird species they describe, the cedar waxwing invasion for berries and the long-standing nest of red-tail hawks stood out.  Foxes, possums, and a substantial population of raccoons are described.  There are excellent nature lore tips regarding the colors of 5-lined skinks and owl sounds.  I wish the newsletter were online, but if you have a friend that’s a resident, check it out.  Way to go, Matthew and Chris!

PS:  Hope ya’ll like the revised sidebar.

PPS: Matthew very kindly posted the article referred to above HERE.



  1. Howdy, John, here is our Oakwood wildlife article:

    We in Oakwood live in the best of both worlds: We can see downtown skyscrapers and hear the chimes of three churches, but we can also enjoy an amazing variety of wildlife. We have a substantial resident raccoon population, as one can hear on spring and summer nights. They live in trees, near streams. One tried to move into my chimney; I would have welcomed him had he been quieter when I was trying to sleep.
    We also have a fox, probably living in the cemetery, but occasionally visiting nearby yards. Opossums are also infrequent visitors.
    All Oakwood gardeners have seen the gentle worm snakes, who live under rocks and will not bite, even when provoked. But we also have black rat snakes; I give them credit for the decline in the rat population, which used to be substantial. There has also been a report of a king snake.
    Our resident lizards are five-lined skinks, of which we mostly see just the tail as they scamper under the leaves. They are dark brown with yellow stripes. The young skinks have bright blue tails. In mating season, the males’ heads turn reddish-orange.
    In the summer we also have tree frogs of various types, as well as bullfrogs, which miraculously appear at our ponds.
    Our bird population is amazing: In addition to all the common types, in the winter we have yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets. You will see these if you have a suet feeder. At least once every winter, a flock of cedar waxwings visits and eats all the ripe berries from the ligustrums and hollies. In the spring, we can enjoy the song of the white-throated sparrow, although it is hard to get a good look at him because he is on top of a tree.
    Those of us with goldfish ponds have probably seen the great blue heron, who stands like a statue at the pond’s edge, waiting for an easy meal to appear from under a lily pad. Even those who haven’t seen him have had the experience of looking into our ponds and wondering where the fish went.
    For many years now, red-tail hawks have nested in the tall pines on the eastern end of Holden St.; all of Oakwood is within their range, plus the cemetery and much of downtown. Occasionally we see the smaller Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks. We used to have a large population of pigeons, but they disappeared about the same time the hawks moved in!
    We also have various owls: The inaptly-named screech owl is no bigger than a cantaloupe, and trills his gentle “whooo” at dusk. The barred owl calls “Who cooks for you” in the middle of the night. The big barn owl has a face like a monkey. These owls also keep our rodent population under control.
    One reason we have so much wildlife is the proximity of the Cemetery, with its restored woodland and open areas. Another reason is the two branches: Grassy Branch, which is partly open between Elm St. and Linden Ave., and Willow Branch, which is partly open between N. East St. and Watauga St. These flow into Cemetery Branch, and various forms of wildlife follow the branches up into Oakwood.

    Comment by Matthew Brown — March 6, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  2. […] Crew is a longtime Oakwood resident who co-authored the wonderful Oakwood nature essay I recently featured.  He lives on Elm Street, almost at the bottom of Oakwood’s slope.  […]

    Pingback by Grassy Branch Sees Daylight « Raleigh Nature — May 18, 2009 @ 2:49 am

  3. […] Creek Wetland Center, which has a grand opening at 5:30 this Tuesday, Sept. 29th.  Raleigh Nature featured the center back in February, describing Frank Harmon’s green design, which Sue explains in […]

    Pingback by Walnut Creek Center opens Tuesday « Raleigh Nature — September 28, 2009 @ 1:20 am

  4. I just visited that place a couple of times…

    until now

    Comment by Neuse River — March 6, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

  5. Awesome bblog you have here

    Comment by Stephanie Burch — July 2, 2022 @ 5:11 am

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