Duke Farms

Duke Farms (5/31/2014)

Wow! This place is a blast! After driving past the entrance for years, we finally decided to turn into this amazing place and see exactly what the big fuss was about. I had heard, for instance, that this place is so popular in the summer that they close the gate once the parking lot fills up, and usually this means early on the weekends.

We arrived about 10 minutes after they opened (they open at 8:30 AM) and the lot was already about 75% filled! We had a look around the beautiful new Orientation Center, got a big color map, and headed out to do a fraction of the 18 miles or so of paths this place has to offer. And within 10 minutes I knew why we only saw two birds at Scherman Hoffman last weekend -- they were all here at Duke Farms! Within the first 10 minutes we saw tree swallows, red-winged blackbirds, two different Baltimore orioles, cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, hawks, vultures, robins and mockingbirds. Later on we saw great blue herons, egrets, doves, cowbirds, starlings, and more of the others. It's a birder's paradise! We only covered about a third of the park, so I'm sure there are many more bird species to see.

Today, using this map we hiked Conservation Lane and Farm Barn Lane south of the Orientation Center. After crossing Dukes Parkway West we did Habitat Lane, watched a great blue heron devour a relatively large fish (see the photos). We continued on the Great Meadow Path to the Old Foundation, then circled Great Falls Lake in a clock-wise direction before having lunch at the Mermaid Pool overlooking Vista Lake. After lunch we visited the Blue Boy statue, then headed east along the Eagle Bridle Path and then the Hay Barn Meadow path to the Hay Barn, before crossing back to the south part of the park and back to our car.

Total distance hiked today was 6.7 miles in 4 hours.

(Click on the thumbnail to bring up a bigger image in a pop-up window)

Conservation Lane trail head

Ruins of well

Red-Winged Blackbird


Frog in swamp

Immature male Baltimore Oriole

Mature Baltimore Oriole

Informative sign


Northern Mockingbird


Swamp tree

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-winged Blackbird

Swamp Sparrow

Intersection between Orientation Center

Open meadow

Orientation Center from rear

American Robin

Northern Mockinbird

Common Fleabane

A constellation of Starlings

Heading back to Orientation Center

We saw a Gecko!

Photographing... [photo by Laura]

...these wildflowers

Duke's farm

Duke's Brook

Bridge and culvert


Brook waterfall

Wildlife blind

Great Blue Heron...

...with lunch!

Feeling satisfied

Eastern Pondhawk

Parallel paths

View in Great Meadow

The Great Meadow

Dan on steps [photo by Laura]

Foundation ruins

Buddhist monk

View of Great Meadow from top

Mourning Dove

[Photo by Laura]


...Vista Lake

Vista Lake

Heading down to...

...Duke Reservoir

Nest in Duke Reservoir

Duke Reservoir

Climbing above Duke Reservoir

Great Falls Lake

Great Blue Heron


Grave for camel Baby...

...and cat Pudge...

...in pet cemetery



Path under...


Beautiful bridges abound

Frog near...

...northern Vista Lake

Above Vista Lake waterfall

Lion at base of bridge

Vista Lake

Brown-headed Cowbird

Steps down to...

...our lunch spot, overlooking...

...Mermaid Pool

Red-winged Blackbird

Blue Boy Statue


Steps to...


Tree Swallow

Hay Barn

Hay Barn


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