Thursday, May 14, 2009

Howell Woods (Johnson County, NC)

Overview: Howell Woods, located in Johnson County, offers over 25 miles of hiking trails through diverse North Carolina habitat types, including coastal plain bottomland hardwood forest, cypress-gum swamps and pine/scrub-oak sandhills. Visitors can enjoy the Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center or explore the preserve via canoe, horse, bike or on foot.

Directions: From Raleigh take US 70 East, exit onto I-95 South and continue to exit number 90 (US 701). Turn right onto US 701 and continue for approximately 6.3 miles before turning left onto Stricklands Crossroads (SR 1143). Continue for 3.4 miles and turn left onto Devil's Racetrack Road. Howell Woods preserve will be located about 2/10 of mile down the road on the left.

Observations & Ponderings: Howell Woods offers visitors a friendly nature center, surrounded by frog-filled ponds and numerous bird feeders. Before even heading out on the trails, one can spot bullfrogs, mockingbirds, northern cardinals, American goldfinches, downy woodpeckers, purple martins and even an elusive fox squirrel!

Bullfrog, 10 May 2009, Johnson County, NC (© Nicolette Cagle)

Fox squirrel, 10 May 2009, Johnson County, NC (© Nicolette Cagle)

Take a gander down Leopold Loop for a glimpse of black swallowtail butterflies, six lined racerunners, prickly pears and the delicate pink blooms of Tradescantia rosea. Listen for the sounds of field sparrows, eastern bluebirds and red tailed hawks soaring in the distance.

Tradescantia rosea, 10 May 2009, Johnson County, NC (© Nicolette Cagle)

Continue down the Bartram trail and then make your way into the swamplands of warbler way. Look for overcup and swamp chestnut oak here, along with jack-in-the-pulpit. You might also hear common grackles and pileated woodpeckers. At the end of Warbler Way, turn right down the plantation road and see if you can find a big black rat snake stretched across the gravel path!

Black rat snake, 10 May 2009, Johnson County, NC (© Nicolette Cagle)
Make another right onto the Pine Bottom trail to find Acadian flycatchers and beautiful Atamasco lilies in bloom. From here, you can head back to the visitor center via the Bartram trail, keeping your eyes and ears open for red-eyed vireos, blue-grey gnatcatchers, tufted titmice, as well as blooming blue-eyed grass and golden ragwort and skitterish eastern five-lined skinks.

Atamasco lily, 10 May 2009, Johnson County, NC (© Nicolette Cagle)

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