The Raleigh Naturalist

November 16, 2013

Great Blue Heron Rookery Exposed, As Are Buckeye’s Beaches

Blue Heron or hawk nest

Google map of rookery

The sewer work beside Crabtree Creek in East Raleigh has provided temporary easy access to a favorite, mostly secret feature of Raleigh Swamp: a small permanent marsh fed by Pigeon House Branch which provides a yearly haven for breeding great blue herons and red-shouldered hawks.  The site, seen below, is not pretty but has water all year and a wide variety of cover, and so provides a perfect nursery for the babies of large predatory water-loving birds.

Blue Heron rookery at Raleigh Swamp

The site can be seen by walking a short way down the new sewer cut off of Crabtree Boulevard. After crossing a nifty and temporary metal bridge over Pigeon House Branch, just before it reaches Crabtree, Crabtree Creek is on your right and the small marsh is on the left.  It makes me think of gator country for very small gators, though the “gators” that startle one here are furry and have criss-crossed tails.

gator country for very small gators

Between sewer cuts the best access to this site, which is currently low, is from the railroad line parallel to Capital Boulevard.  The greenway is just across the creek, and  you can often see the activity of the breeding birds on Raleigh Swamp walks, while looking SW across the creek.

low water at Blue Heron marshedge of small marshmarshy area off Crabtree Boulevard

Across Raleigh Boulevard, the sewer project swallows the greenway and makes it appear impassable. But I was slightly amazed to see a jogger and biker come right through the construction. A very friendly construction crew, which was hard at work this Saturday morning.

construction sign on Buckeye

Buckeye jogger approaches bulldozer

Buckeye jogger approaches bulldozer

Buckeye jogger heads into construction site

beach at hackberry grove by Crabtree

Walking Buckeye eastward toward Rollingwood and Milburnie, I could see very well here in late fall the sandy beaches, old and new, that ring the inner banks of Crabtree’s curves.  Beaches also form just downstream of large obstacles, typically fallen trees.  Just such a beach has newly formed across the greenway from the first stretch of this walk.

new Buckeye beach off Ral blvd

pebbly beach on Crabtree off Yonkers

pebbly beach on Crabtree

One of my favorite Buckeye beaches is Goose Beach, which is no longer a beach but has become a vegetated  bank.  This happened when Crabtree changed its course, right after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.  My children, ten and nine at the time, watched our sandy gosling playpen (thus the name) slowly change as it swallowed the previous turning path of the creek and divert it back to the more ancient path it had abandoned for several decades.

former Goose beach

former Goose Beach at Crabtree’s turn, which was abandoned in 1999

What could make such a change?  Besides a hurricane flood to carve the new path, there needs to be a blockage in the old path.  Below is just such a near blockage right below Goose beach.  Who knows when Crabtree will turn again?

Crabtree Creek constricted at turn

Crabtree Creek constricted at turn

Bonus pics

hackberry grove on Buckeye just east of Raleigh Boulevard

hackberry grove on Buckeye just east of Raleigh Boulevard

lower rockfall on Crabtree below Raleigh Boulevard

lower rockfall on Crabtree below Raleigh Boulevard

spiky herb at Raleigh swamp

November Mistletoe

November Mistletoe


December 14, 2008

Mistletoe Sightings

Filed under: Central Raleigh, East Raleigh, Nature Lore, Pecans & Mistletoe — Tags: , , — raleighnaturalist @ 8:19 pm
     Mistletoe is common in the Southern Piedmont and has a strong herbal tradition as a medicine and as a holiday superstition and game.  This evergreen parasite is spread by bird defecation after eating mistletoe berries.  The latter link from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences tells us the name derives from the Anglo phrase for  “dung-on-a-twig.” Three different species have a complex role in all this.  The species most commonly used as decoration, phoradendron flavescens, is a native of North America. In California, it is considered a parasitic pest.  Viscus album is the European species whose berries are poisonous and also useful as medicine.  The species in my pictures is Phoradendron leucarpum, oak mistletoe, considered less common and rare in Europe, but apparently it is Raleigh’s most common, and the one favored by European Druids for its alliance with the mighty oak.
     Raleigh certainly has its share of oaks, and many of them in the area northwest of downtown sport the dusky green balls.  The spots inside the Beltline I best remember mistletoe are gone.  The planted median of Glenwood north of Peace Street used to have oaks that were full of prominent mistletoe, but I just today realized they have been replaced (quite some time ago – another geezer moment) with crepe myrtles, which are doubtless less trouble for the Progress Energy linemen.  But a large oak with a huge spread of mistletoe grows just across the street.  Mistletoe is not endangered: in fact I see it often in my travels, now that I have trained my eye to look for it.  But it does get harvested, and some  of what you see hanging in door jams is quite local indeed.
     Where do you get yours? Maybe from Dan, who was set up on Person Street as I drove out to take mistletoe pics for this post.  I explained our coincidence, bought a big branch and chatted about mistletoe.  I mentioned the old strategy I’d seen out at my country cousins of shooting it down with a shotgun.
     “Yeah, but that messes it all up.  I got this here the hard way – thirty feet up.”  From his yard, he said, but there is mistletoe in some public areas around town.  Does much inside the beltline get picked each year?  Wondering, I say goodbye to Dan and head out in search of unharvested mistletoe.  First stop is the most hilarious spot for mistletoe to hang: the corner of Cook and Oakwood.  The irony of this clump presiding over a corner where women of the street often hawk their sad-eyed wares in broad daylight is just too great for me to forbear mentioning.
Mistletoe at Oakwood Cemetery

Mistletoe at Oakwood Cemetery

     Heading out of downtown, I find nice groups at Harvey Street but none on Glenwood north of 5 Points.  Over on Wade, there are healthy stands at the SECU facility and on up that hill toward Oberlin.  The Canterbury/Banbury neighborhood has huge oaks, but many of them are Willow Oaks, and I saw almost no mistletoe there.  My schedule took me back toward home, and I saw the nice batches at the edge of Blount Street Commons.  This was a very partial and cursory inventory, but I plan to make this an annual post and develop a map of mistletoe sites in Raleigh (as I will for pecans, thus the name for my nature project blog).
Suite101 Botanical info
***********’s mistletoe history
NC Farms Selling Organic & Low-Spray Christmas Trees and Wreaths (and Mistletoe)
Have a great holiday season!

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