Raleigh Nature

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

Advertisements

February 27, 2011

Triangle’s Art for the Birds

Crabtree Creek from greenway deck just west of Capital Boulevard

Art is gaining ground here on Raleigh Nature, as perhaps it well should.  Last summer, I posted about art shows related to Raleigh nature, and now I’m really enjoying participating in a piece of correspondence art, or at least communication art, by Julie Thomson, an artist and a scholar I met at the Black Mountain College conference last October.  Still haven’t written about that event over at Raleigh Rambles, but I had to share this wonderful project.

Julie’s installation consists of a poster about her piece inviting people to chalk “Do You Hear Birds?” in places they heard them, with a large pile of beautifully printed and wrapped chalks for people to pick up. Her blog documents responses.   The piece is part of a show called “Local Histories.”    Saturday, March 5, Julie is conducting a bird walk in association with her installation.

Edna Metz Wells Park, an excellent central raleigh birding spot

Julie Thomson’s project blog: http://www.doyouhearbirds.blogspot.com/

Her upcoming bird walk:

Saturday, March 5 at 8 am
Do You Hear Birds Bird Walk
Artist Julie Thomson and Biology graduate students from North Carolina
State University will lead a walk around Chapel Hill listening for,
and identifying, bird calls. Participants are encouraged to bring
binoculars if they have them for bird watching. Dress for the weather
and meet in front of the Local Histories exhibition building entrance,
523 E. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill.

Closer to home, Lee Moore’s show about birds opens Friday, March 4 at the Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Art Gallery.  Lee is a dear friend, a Bain artist who got me involved in that project, and a wonderful artist whose bird art was shown in the last couple of years at the Cameron Village Library.  She’s also the person who first informed me of the presence of coyotes inside Raleigh – Boylan Heights, specifically.

Lee Moore’s show:

Attracting Birds: Sounds and Skies,”  is part of an ongoing series that
partners bibliographic inspirations with the artist’s expressions of
personal bird encounters in collage paintings, photography and recordings.
This most recent rendition is a collection of visual poems about the bird
encounters in residential landscapes of two historic neighborhoods in
Raleigh and Durham.  Also included are soundscapes, skyscapes and
treescapes that create an environment for Attracting Birds. 

Lee’s show blog: http://www.leeattractingbirds.blogspot.com

As if these shows weren’t enough synergistic art for Triangle birds, Adam Peele has a show entitled Raleigh Is For The Birds at Design Box.

  I also have to add this lovely image from an older bird show – Susan Toplikar’s show in 2008, based on notebooks of bird sketches she created while medically homebound.  Birds have a presence that enters our lives: we take them for granted and yet we do observe and react to them, and they frame the audial background of our day in ways we hardly realize.  Do you hear birds?

April 12, 2010

Pigeon House Re-Hab Project Helps Edna Metz Wells Park

A wonderful piece of graffiti has garnered some media attention for the stream restoration project along Smallwood Drive just below Cameron Village.  Cameron Village was the first shopping center in the Southeast, and when Willie York built it he diverted, ditched and straightened the headswaters of Pigeon House Branch, which gather between Cameron Village and the Raleigh Apartments.  The creek takes a straight shot right under Clarke Avenue into Edna Metz Wells Park, and after heavy rains the water, which gathers from a large section of the Oberlin Road ridge of Civil War fame, would roar through the tiny park, eroding and scouring and backwashing debris into the tributary water piped down from the glade along Forest Street above the park.  The City of Raleigh is working on a general rehabilitation plan for Pigeon House Branch, and the Smallwood project, which is pretty much finished, is part of that.  Apparently they are going to remove some invasive species before doing final plantings, both on Smallwood and in Edna Metz, in the fall.

From the main approach, the park looks beseiged..  But as you will see below, in the interior, all is well.  This spot is a real haven in Central Raleigh, and was a mainstay for my young children and me in the nineties.

 The Smallwood St. project involved using large boulders and some nice terraces to slow down and complicate the path of the water.

 

The media interest, started by a nice post from Goodnight, Raleigh, centers on a graffiti portrait of Edie Sedgewick, Andy Warhol’s muse, painted on the culvert where Pigeon House enters Edna Metz.  My picture of the scene is below.

Josh Shaffer called me and asked about the construction and Ena Metz, but never specifically mentioned the graffiti.  I’m pretty sure they won’t scrape it off as part of the re-hab project, but I can’t really say for sure.  Hope not.  It is indeed a nice harmless piece of art.  The figure says “De,” which is the word for power in Taoist philosophy.  I appreciate Josh’s feature of it and the park, as well as his kind words for my work.  And thanks as always to John Morris and his compadres over at another of Raleigh’s “splendid blogs!”

Goodnight ,Raleigh post on Edna Metz Wells Park

photo album of Edna Metz and Smallwood project

February 6, 2009

Pigeon House Branch Part 2

heron-on-rock-outcrop_1_1

     In our previous post, we began with the hidden headwaters of Pigeon House under Cameron Village, and followed it through the the Park Avenue  neighborhood and down West Johnson Street to Peace Street, with a reach-out to Capital at Wake Forest, where the heron above (remember all pictures should click to enlarge) found a rocky spot of wilderness.  This post backs up to Devereux Meadows and follows Pigeon House Branch down to its intersection with Crabtree Creek. An unhappy course, for the most part. The city is trying to rehabilitate it, one tributary at a time. Below is the map of their plan.

pigeon-house-plan-map_1_1

     Pigeon House Branch drains the northwestern quadrant of downtown, gathering water east of the Oberlin Road ridge, bringing it through a series of open stone culverts through the Park Drive neighborhood.  At St. Mary’s Street it enters the Glenwood South business district and is piped under the roads and railroads tracks and down to Devereux Meadows.   The dark blue line is where they want to uncover the creek, and the brown area is where the city wants to create a “Riverwalk”  at Devereux Meadows.  Below we see the creek as it begins its path through this area.

     Pigeon House Branch is under there somewhere!  The creek escapes out a large pipe and continues down between West Street and Capital Boulevard.  About here is where the 42 inch pipe pictured below delivers all the water collected from Fletcher Park and its $700,000 water park!

     Pigeon House crosses back and forth across Capital Boulevard, traveling through wide manmade ditches covered with kudzu.  The water passes over the heron’s rock outcrop and turns northeast.  It dives under Capital yet again and emerges at Watkin’s Grill, a venerable blue-collar breakfast joint at Old Louisburg Road and Atlantic Ave.  Traveling between the north and southbound lanes of Capital, it accepts the water from off the Blount St. ridge (Mordecai to Oakwood), and makes its way through successive parking lots, including Johnny’s Motel, Dunkin’ Donuts, The Foxy Lady and the bowling alley for over a mile, before turning east at Crabtree Boulevard.  Here Pigeon House lends its seepage to a small marsh between it and Crabtree Creek.  It feeds into Crabtree at Raleigh Boulevard, its mouth visible from its bridge over Crabtree as well as the nearby greenway deck.

Pigeon House Branch enters Crabtree Creek

     Pigeon House is decidedly urban and yet makes its way through former waste lowlands turned into thoroughfares, so its riparian buffer is actually less stressed for space than many other creeks in Raleigh.  Thus the heron, thus the opportunity for a high-end greenway at the site where I watched many a minor league baseball game.  Much hope can be found for success with the city’s project to rehabilitate Pigeon House Branch.

pdf. Pigeon House Plan

Pigeon House Part 2 photo album

This is a thorough sequence from Devereux Meadows to Crabtree Creek.

November 22, 2008

Pigeon House Branch

     A great blue heron browses Pigeon House Branch where it crosses over a granite outcrop.  The scene is tucked away in a very industrial part of central Raleigh – Capital Boulevard’s warehouse district, where the creek flows through huge kudzu-covered ditches on alternating sides of the thoroughfare.  Pigeon House is the most prominent waterway in central Raleigh, but also its most abused. (last text link is info, all others are pictures).

sw-tributary_1_1The streamwatch station denotes a creek under these storm sewers at the SE edge of Cameron Village.

Transportation Plan map of Pigeon House creek

  It gathers its headwaters in Edna Metz Park  just off Cameron Village, and this upper part of the creek was shifted and ditched in order to build Cameron Village.  From Edna Metz, concrete culverts carry it through Cameron Park and east down Johnson Street, where it crosses under Peace Street to be culverted again through the former Devereux Meadows, which is now a city facility for trash trucks and a salt barn.

    Flowing north beside Capital Boulevard, the creek drains two railroad lines as well as a massive entertwining of concrete roadways.  A highlight of this stretch is the Light+Time art tower, which presides over the union of Pigeon House with the waters from Fred Fletcher Park. As it borders the service road for the warehouse strip, it finds the rock outcrop frequented by the heron. It dives under Capital to emerge almost underneath the venerable Watkins Grill on Louisburg Road, then criss-crosses Capital back and forth again before heading east toward Crabtree Creek. We will pick it up at The Foxy Lady and follow it down to Raleigh Swamp another post soon.

The heron has found a beautiful spot in unlikely territory.  As the city makes efforts to rehabilitate its tributaries, Pigeon House Creek continues to flow as naturally as it can through northwest downtown.  We should notice it and help it out anyway we can.

Pigeon House Creek photo sequence

(from Cameron Village to Dennis Ave and Capital)

 

September 3, 2008

Fletcher Park water feeds Pigeon House Creek

Filed under: Central Raleigh, green initiatives, Greenways & Parks — Tags: , , , — raleighnaturalist @ 10:10 pm

There is not a lot to update on the earlier post about Fletcher Park’s new water park, which remains in a distinctly unlovely stage of construction, but this project is interesting from several angles and seems worth another look.  The large cavities being excavated from the red clay are designed to hold the water headed down to Pigeon House Creek, which is the long-suffering waterway that parallels Capital Boulevard as it flows north toward its intersection with Crabtree Creek at Raleigh Swamp.  What look like huge pits will allow the water to deposit sediment and be filtered by plant activity before flowing on down the hill.

      A nice description of the benefits, which include hopes for “A new ecosystem for this area of the park [with] butterflies, dragonflies, and frogs, among other animal species,  ”  can be found at The Raleigh Connoiseur.  But that post was in May, and the plan was for the water garden to be finished soon after.  But there it sits.  The upper pool shown below will cascade or slide down to the larger lower pool.

      This site was a Methodist orphanage, built in 1900 and still operating well into my lifetime.  The City purchased the property in 1982 and named the park for A.J. Fletcher’s recreation-loving son.  Fred Fletcher was inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame in 2007.

     The outlet seen above is the water’s exit toward Pigeon House Creek.  From this point the water dives underground and is piped under the railroad line and across N. West Street.  I cannot find a spot to view that intersection yet.  Below is a  picture of Pigeon House Branch just downstream.  We will follow it’s grim journey down Capital sometime soon.

Fletcher Park and Pigeon House Creek photo album

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.