Archie Elledge Water Treatment Plant is the best place in the county to see shorebirds in season. Take Stratford Road south to Hanes Mall Boulevard just past I-40. Turning east, Griffith Road is the first right, and the entrance at 2801 Griffith Rd. will be 1.7 miles south. From Highway 158 take Clemmonsville Road east 1.1 miles and turn north 0.6 miles to the entrance.
Birders may gain access after 8:00 a.m. Monday-Friday and must leave by 3:00 p.m. Access is unavailable after 2:30 p.m. Sign in to the left of the entrance door. Access on Saturdays is between 8:00 and noon but gate access is only 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Access is only with a previously issued Nature Watcher pass or in the company with someone who has a pass. You must sign in and sign out at the office during the week, but this is not required on Saturday morning as the office is closed. Anyone who does not have a pass for the gate can apply for one at the front desk. Using your pass, enter the plant through the upper entrance, the one nearest the office, and follow the route to the ponds designated on the map on the door to the office lobby. Park only in the area designated for Nature Watchers, do not drive on the dikes around the large pond, and keep to the south side of the creek except when entering and exiting. Once you leave you may not return. Stay out of the way of any workers and do not bird in any high traffic or off limit areas. If birders do not behave, our access could be denied. If allowed in, continue on the entrance road past the rectangular drying basins, following the turn left, then right over the bridge.
The main ponds are across the little creek to the left, and there is a road leading to the far corner where most shorebirds are seen. A spotting scope is helpful. The largest numbers of shorebirds are found from late July through October, peaking about September 1. Pectoral Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper can be numerous, with Spotted, Solitary, Semipalmated, and Western Sandpiper seen frequently. Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover and Sanderling also are seen. Stilt, White-rumped and Baird’s Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Dowitcher, White Ibis, and Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalarope are rare. White-rumped Sandpiper is more likely in spring.
The entire site can be productive, including the area around the old drying bins. Killdeer are common and raptors are present all year. In summer, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, and Song and Field Sparrow are common. White-throated Sparrows winter in the brushy fields, along with Swamp, White-crowned, Fox and Chipping Sparrows. Wilson’s Snipe also may along pond edges in winter and early spring. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Brewer’s Blackbird have been seen on migration, along with rare sightings of Royal (2004), Black (2011 and 2012 among others) and Forster’s Tern (2007), as well as, American Avocet (2009, 2011), Little Blue Heron (2009, 2012), Greater White-fronted Goose (2010) and Black-necked Stilt (2010). American Pipits have been fall visitors.
With the changing practices of the Water Treatment Plants, the ponds have become good locations for waterfowl. In February-March of 2007, up to 11 Goldeneyes were present in addition to Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, Canvasback, Redhead, Black Duck, Ring-necked, Northern Pintail, and Lesser Scaup. In January-February 2009, a Tufted Duck was a first North Carolina record. The ponds are always a good place to check for Blue-winged Teal in migration and Wood Ducks year round. Common Raven nest in a covered work area.