Ranging from mountains to rolling piedmont foothills and braided with rivers and streams, the Dan River region makes for excellent birding.
Birding trails and sites can be found on both the North Carolina and Virginia sides of the state line. The varied geography of the basin makes for a diverse range of bird and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Come visit us and catch the spring migration in full flight.
Check out the North Carolina Birding Trail for more information, including maps and contact information.
Here are some of the birding hotspots in the region.
Hanging Rock State Park
Not far from the urban landscape of the Triad cities, there is another North Carolina to be discovered. Hanging Rock State Park offers sheer cliffs and peaks of bare rock, quiet forests and cascading waterfalls, and views of the piedmont plateau that stretch for miles.
Look for: Broad-winged Hawk, Common Raven, Black-throated Green Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler.
Mayo River State Park
Mayo River State Park is 1,967 acres of rugged piedmont terrain surrounding the picturesque river. The Mayo Mountain access trails, a .5-mile loop hiking trail and a 1.8-mile loop hiking trail, provide access to a mixed forest typical of the piedmont with an airy mountain feel.
Rockingham County birder Marty Wall prefers working two remote parcels, Tyne Road and Deshazo Road. Both are reliable spots for Kentucky Warbler in the breeding season. They both have Whip-poor-wills, and Deshazo Road has Chuck-will’s-widows during the breeding season.
Look for: Wood Duck (spring), Black Vulture, Broad-winged Hawk, Common Raven, Black-throated Green Warbler (spring-summer), Northern Parula (spring-summer), Louisiana Waterthrush (spring-summer).
The Dan River is a slow river, well-suited for beginning to intermediate paddlers. The river flows past high banked slopes and floodplain forest, covering 38 river miles in Rockingham County before it flows northeast into Virginia.
Look for: Wood Duck, Barred Owl, Great Crested Flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler.
Mitchell’s Nursery & Greenhouse Inc.
Mitchell’s Nursery and Greenhouse is a local, family-owned shrub and tree nursery with greenhouses on the way to Pilot Mountain from Winston-Salem. The best birding areas on the small 2-acre site are found in the potted trees and along the periphery of the property.
Look for: American Goldfinches in flocks in winter and eating Crape Myrtle seeds in spring; Mourning Doves, Northern Mockingbirds, American Robins, sparrows, wrens, Eastern Bluebirds, Killdeer, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, and Barn Swallows.
Haw River State Park
Just north of Greensboro is Haw River State Park, one of North Carolina’s newest additions to the state park system. The Summit at Haw River State Park is an educational facility, with opportunities for young and old alike. The park trails meander through various ecological communities for an array of viewing opportunities.
Look for: Wood Duck, Red-shouldered Hawk, Brown Creeper, Fox Sparrow.
More than 6 miles of land and paddle trails traverse Mayo Park, including nine distinctly named trails, all marked and color-coded with signs. The park observation decks, docks, and trails all provide nice opportunities throughout the year to watch for a variety of bird life.
Look for: Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Summer Tanager, Indigo Bunting, wintering waterfowl.
Caswell Game Land
Caswell Game Land spans more than 15,000 acres and includes excellent examples of several Piedmont habitats, including floodplain forest, mature oak forest, and pine savannah. Portions of the Game Land are managed for high-quality early successional habitat under the Cooperative Upland habitat Restoration and Enhancement (CURE) program.
Look for: Northern Bobwhite, Eastern Kingbird, Kentucky Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting.
Lake Reidsville Recreational Park
There are two nature trails at Lake Reidsville that provide the best birding opportunities in this park. The first trail heads toward the lake, through mixed hardwood/pine forest. A variety of woodland songbirds can be seen and heard during the spring and summer months. The second nature trail weaves in and out of the newly completed disc-golf course.
Look for: Indigo Bunting, Bald Eagles, Osprey, wading birds, wintering waterfowl.
Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail
The Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail is located on the Upper Piedmont Research Station, next to Chinqua-Penn mansion. The site provides 1.5 miles of trail that meander past open pasture, creek, pond, and mature hardwood forest.
Look for: Indigo Bunting, Eastern Meadowlark,Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Bluebird, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Goldfinch, Red-shouldered Hawk, Great Blue Heron, wading birds, Grasshopper Sparrow during the breeding season, Bobolink during spring migration.
The Virginia Bird and Wildlife Trail (VBWT) provides a series of birding trails throughout the state, listed by region. Here are several that run through the State Crossings region.
On the eastern edge of Halifax County the Dan, Banister and Staunton Rivers converge to form John H. Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island Lake). Wildlife persists in great abundance providing a fantastic opportunity for exploration and observation.
Look for: Ring-billed gulls, Fox Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, Rusty Blackbird, Red-Tailed Hawk.
The Staunton River starts its life as the Roanoke River in the hills southwest of Roanoke.As it flows into Southside Virginia, the Staunton River regains its name and flows though some of the prettiest, and least spoiled land in the Piedmont. Along its route are numerous small parks and convenient boat landings that facilitate canoe access to the river.
Look for: Great Blue Herons, Wood Ducks, Bald Eagles.
Crossing the Blue Ridge and descending down its eastern flank, visitors will traverse a crumple of rolling foothills; the beginning of the Piedmont. Access points to the foothills abound around Rocky Mount with several parks offering fields, forest and seasonal wetlands. This easternmost portion of the wildlife watching trail is one of the most exposed areas of open pasture and regenerating forest. Several of the streams trickling down from the Blue Ridge have been dammed here to form reservoirs. The largest of these reservoirs, Smith Mountain Lake, holds thousands of acres of open water. The loop ends in the east at the Dan River in Danville, which holds damsel- and dragonflies less commonly found at the higher elevations further west.
Look for: Red-Tailed Hawk, Blue Grosbeak, Prairie Warblers, Field Sparrows, waterfowl and herons.
Just to the southwest of Turkeycock Mountain, near the North Carolina border, the city of Martinsville offers numerous wildlife watching opportunities, including parkland filled with wildlife. The forests are at their best in migration when neotropical migrants can congregate en masse.
Look for: Northern Bobwhite, Indigo Bunting, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift, Red-Eyed Vireo, Eastern Bluebirds.
The small pinkish-brown Fairy Stones appear everywhere across Virginia in state park gift shops and in souvenir stands along the Blue Ridge, but to find them naturally, the visitor must come to Fairy Stone State Park. Here, among the mighty white pines and massive yellow poplars, just back from the shores of Philpott Lake, is where they originate. In addition to the unique geology, the Fairy Stone area combines a mix of wildlife known from the western mountains and the central piedmont.
Look for: Brown-Headed Nuthatch, Yellow-Throated Warbler, varieties of waterfowl.
Sweet Mountain Laurel
The sites on this loop are located on or near the southern portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. The scenery is breath-taking, and each of these sites offers an unusual glimpse into the beauty of the Blue Ridge.
Look for: Cerulean Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Black-throated Green Warbler.