Historic sites often make for good birding locations precisely for the same reasons nature preserves do. If a building is slated to be protected as a link to times past, there’s an excellent chance that the surrounding property will get the same treatment. That’s certainly the case with Historic Yates Mill, the oldest functioning grist mill in heavily developed Wake County, North Carolina. The mill itself stands much as it did in the 18th century, as do the surrounding 574 acres, with a few modern touches, including an interpretive center and miles of well-maintained trails. Birders in winter enjoy a variety of ducks on the old mill pond, and in spring and fall, migrating warblers, thrushes, and tanagers pass through.
Surprises are also possible. I’ve seen Virginia Rail skulk in the marshy back end of the pond, and on one late spring morning, an unlikely Anhinga showed up. In spring, I usually take a short drive around the agricultural fields that border the park to look for flocks of migrating Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows on territory, and nesting Loggerhead Shrikes, a species of special concern in the state. — Nathan Swick
Nathan Swick is the eBird reviewer for North Carolina and the manager of the American Birding Association’s blog. He wrote about Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Hotspot Near You No. 88, in our April 2010 issue.