Bond Park is Wake County’s largest municipal park. The park gets heavy use particularly in the early Spring, Summer, and early Fall. Hikers, bikers, baby strollers, and joggers crowd the trails, especially in the afternoon. So, if you’re a birder and want to find some interesting birds, Bond Park might not be your first choice. A drive to Mason Farm in Chapel Hill, for example, would be a better option.
But I’m mostly too lazy to drive, preferring to walk instead, and Bond Park is just minutes from my home. Despite its noisy urban flavor, I’ve been fortunate to find interesting birds at Bond Park. My park list is approaching 125 bird species, and a single excursion nets between 30 and 40 birds, even higher during migration, and a few times in the low 50’s.
Here’s a map of the spots I linger at when hiking the boot-shaped Lake Trail:
Yes, you can park at the boat house in Bond Park, but I prefer to park at 120 Fallsworth just off of W. Chatham St. This location is the Oxxford Hunt swimming pool parking lot and is always open (see purple rectangle on my map). From here, you can enter Bond Park before it officially opens its gates. Take the concrete sidewalk to the asphalt trail into the south part of Bond Park. Site #1 is on the left just past the tennis courts.
Sites #1 & 2 Beaver Pond & Creek
It used to be a bog, but the Town of Cary has allowed the beaver dam to remain (so far), enhancing the habitat for birds. This location is perhaps the best birding spot in the park. Some of the birds I’ve seen here include: Great Blue and Green Herons; Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and Red-shouldered Hawks; Yellow-billed Cuckoo; Eastern Phoebe; Winter Wren; Wood Thrush; Northern & Louisiana Waterthrushes; Song, Swamp, Field, and White-throated Sparrows. Warblers include Blue-Winged (once), Black-and-White, Prothonotary, Hooded (once), Magnolia, Yellow, Blackpoll, Prairie, and Black-throated Green Warblers, Redstarts and Parulas. If you’re lucky and bird here a lot, you might also see Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting (in Spring, but they don’t hang around for summer), Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Rusty Blackbird, Orchard Oriole, and Yellow-breasted Chat.
Site # 3 Peninsula Point
This location is good for spotting water fowl especially in the winter months. From here you might see Ruddy Ducks, perhaps a Ring-necked Duck or two, a Pied-Bill Grebe, Cormorants, shorebirds (if mud flats appear at the right time), Bald Eagles (watched one pluck a gull right off the lake), and occaisonally a few warblers (Cape May, Yellow-Rumped, Black-throated Blue). One year I saw a Black-crowned Night Heron on the bank near this site.
Site # 4 Toe-of-the-Boot
This is where you are likely to find the Barred Owls. They nest in these bottomlands not far from boardwalk #6 (the bridges/boardwalks are numbered). Acadian Flycatchers, Winter Wrens, and Hermit Thrushes are regulars (in season) in this neck of the woods. I have also seen the Veery (near bridge #9), Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Summer Tanager.
Site # 5 The Western Bank
The west side of the Lake Trail runs between houses and the lake. It features a steep bank, which seems to attract some species. I’ve encountered Black-throated Blue Warblers, Blackburnians, Blackpolls, and an occasional Prothonotary. One year I found a singing Swainson’s Thrush near bridge # 17. This is also another good place for viewing winter waterfowl and gulls.
(not numbered): The Dam
At the dam, you can get Chipping Sparrows and Kingbirds, Hawks and Eagles, and a great view of the lake. In the field near the dam, you can find Bluebirds, Flickers, and Robins.
Site # 6: The East Side
A second pair of Barred Owls is usually found at this location, near the lake or along the creek that feeds into it. Acadian Flycatchers love this habitat and you can often find a nest if you look around for it. I occasionally find Hermit Thrushes here in the winter months. I have found Worm-eating Warbler in this neck of the woods, too. And once, I saw a Mississippi Kite in the top of a dead snag half-way between this site and Site #7.
Site # 7: The Power Line Right-of-Way
This is a good place to find perching hawks, usually Red-shouldered. A dead snag along the edge offers good viewing for Woodpeckers and Hummingbirds. Common Yellowthroats love the creek and its weedy flanks. I found a Marsh Wren here one autumn day. Redstarts and Black-throated Blue Warblers are sometimes nearby.
To make my trips more enjoyable, I avoid the hordes of mostly-nice-but-noisy hominids that clog the trails in the afternoons. I prefer the dawn-to-midmorning hours for most of my birding excursions, and the birds seem to prefer those hours, too. It’s the early hours that give me the elbow room I crave. Crowds make me (and the birds) dive for cover.