- Established 1982 -


1-7 January 2024

Installment #820---Visitor # Visit counter For Websites

Subscribe for free to our award-winning nature newsletter

(Back to Preceding Week; on to Next Week)

(Page updated 01/08/24)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center


For half a century I—Bill Hilton Jr.—have been “The Piedmont Naturalist,” nom de plume for my newspaper columns and books based on a lifetime of nature wanderings in the Carolina Piedmont. For more than 40 of those years I’ve resided with family here at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, an 11-acre nonprofit nature reserve where I've studied diverse flora and fauna of an oft-overlooked ecoregion. Since 2000 I’ve been privileged via the Center's Web sites to offer regular insights about our research and environmental education initiatives—especially through this award-winning “This Week at Hilton Pond" nature blog, with more than 815 photo essays to date!

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Another accomplishment of which I'm proud: Hilton Pond Center is the most active year-round bird banding station in the Carolinas, with more than 79,150 birds banded and released since 1982. (As a result, the property is designated an Important Bird Research Area by the National Audubon Society and BirdLife International.) More than 7,500 local captures have been Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (adult male above), a fascinating native species I've worked with at the Center and in five countries of Central America through Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project. All these birds—along with other animals, plants, and phenomena encountered during 42 years at Hilton Pond—have allowed me to share wonders of nature to friends and teachers and students and scientists near and far.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

One thing I’ve learned though original long-term studies at Hilton Pond is nature can be oxymoronic—as when things are "constant" . . . but, at the same time, "constantly changing." We still have many of the same bird and wildflower species as in 1982 when we acquired the property, but in a mere four decades our 11 acres have changed dramatically—from a fallow old farm (March 1982, above) with grassy, open fields and a few big trees . . . to a near monoculture of Eastern Red Cedars (1995, below) . . . to what is now a maturing forest of diverse hardwoods and Loblolly Pines.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

As flora moved through this vegetative succession, habitats likewise changed over time, and we observed a shifting array of plants and animals. I’ve greatly enjoyed describing many of these successional changes and related observations in books, magazine articles, and technical papers, and through public presentations, a local TV series, and various on-line venues.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

In nature, "change" is neither good nor bad—it just IS. So, after documenting change at Hilton Pond during parts of five decades, it’s time for wife Susan and me to consider making a change of our own. Our sons Billy III and Garry (above) fledged from Hilton Pond some years back and have grown into successful and respected young men, with Billy and wife Amanda having their own brood of delightful young girls (McKinley & Hadley) who are growing up entirely too fast. Alas, both sons live some distance away, and the tug for closer contact—especially with those two granddaughters—becomes stronger day by day.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

In short, it is indeed time for a change—time for us to leave Hilton Pond and offer it to another family we hope will love and respect it and be as enchanted as we have been. In the ideal scenario, another naturalist-educator-bander will move in right behind us to keep track of and add to those 10,140 Purple Finches (above) captured so far at the Center. But who knows? Maybe even another environmental organization would like to take over, keeping the site as a natural treasure!

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center


Despite our penchant for the Piedmont, wife Susan and I have always loved the peaceful, verdant eastern mountains of North America, starting ‘way back in the late 1960s on Staph at the National Youth Science Camp in Pocahontas County ("Almost Heaven") West Virginia. (NOTE: “Staph” is correct; after all, it IS a science camp!) We get back to the Mountain State often, and each spring for the preceding 20+ years I’ve been guide and bander at the New River Birding and Nature Festival in Fayette County. We thought we might move from Hilton Pond to to West Virginia, but with elder son Billy’s family in Hickory NC and other son Garry in Lexington SC, it seemed too far. Thus, we’ve been looking for property in the mountains of western North Carolina, perhaps where we can enjoy a Blue Ridge panorama like the one below while getting to know a whole new assortment of plants and animals.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Please understand a change in location does NOT mean I will be shutting down my decades of on-going natural history work. Retirement from such things is NOT in the picture! Just as Susan and I will be moving, so will all the conservation, education, and research activities associated with Hilton Pond Center. In fact, a change from one major biome to another would provide a unique opportunity for me to start a new banding program through which I can compare results from the Piedmont with those from higher-elevation Southern Appalachian Mountains, especially with regard to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. (It's worth noting that several mountain counties we are considering for our relocation have seen little or no research involving year-round bird banding, which means there's ample opportunity for significant discoveries.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

After relocating I commit to continue posting my periodic photo essays about new experiences and encounters in the Southern Blue Ridge Ecoregion (see map above), with one caveat: Once departing Hilton Pond Center and the Carolina Piedmont, we'll obviously need a different name for our new facility and Web site! (Will there be a pond? A local hummingbird population? Hmmmm. Guess we'll have to wait and see.) We'll still function as a non-profit organization, of course, supported primarily by individual donations from thoughtful and generous readers like you.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

To summarize, Susan and I are "down-sizing" and up for a new adventure. We're looking for a not-too-expensive mountain home where we can live comfortably as "former classroom teachers." We seek a suitably situated, higher-elevation, appropriately vegetated acreage (rhododendrons, above, are a must!), with a house where Susan feels "at home" and I can continue my field research, my on-line (and on-site) teaching, and our outreach programs. Our eyes are on a few different mountain areas and we've become good friends with an experienced realtor trained as a wildlife biologist who understands our particular needs.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center


As we plan to depart for the Blue Ridge Mountains, the obvious big news is Hilton Pond and our cozy, recently renovated farmhouse on 11 acres are now up for sale; in fact, our local realtor is listing the property as this account is posted. We’re convinced there is someone out there who loves nature and will see this as opportunity to buy (and, we hope, maintain) an established nature preserve, replete with well-groomed trails, two ponds, and an amazing population of resident and migrant birds that literally flock to feeders and on-site habitats.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The birds are of great interest, but let us not forget all those Raccoons and Pinxter-Azaleas (both above), plus White-tailed Deer, Eastern Chipmunks, Red Bats, Green Treefrogs, Black Walnuts, Sugar Maples, American Sycamores, Short-leafed Pines, Sensitive Ferns, Matchstick Lichens, etc., etc., etc., that call Hilton Pond home.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Hilton Pond provides true country living in a highly desirable part of York County, South Carolina (above). The peaceful setting seems almost remote but has paved state highway access (DeVinney Road) and is less than two miles from the county courthouse in historic downtown York (established 1786). It's just one mile to excellent schools in one direction, and one mile in the other to places of worship, groceries, restaurants, Planet Fitness, Walmart, and Lowes.

An easy 20-minute commute to Rock Hill and its amenities, the property is only about 35 minutes from South Charlotte or the CLT international airport. Two major interstate highways (I-85 and I-77) are each within 20 minutes of York (see map below), and many local residents commute to and from Charlotte, Gastonia, and vicinity each day while benefiting from South Carolina's lower taxes and cost-of-living.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Just to the west of us are dozens of miles of quiet York County byways I have enjoyed immensely while safely pedaling my road bicycle; many are quite scenic and have been re-paved in the past few years. Kings Mountain State Park and the Catawba River/Lake Wylie are nearby. And, finally, we’ve been blessed at Hilton Pond with good neighbors who aren’t too close but are always there if we need them.

For a Google Earth view of the property, plug in these coordinates for Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History:

34.972620°, -81223376°

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The original rooms of our Hilton Pond farmhouse were apparently constructed a century ago—the inscription on a hand-dug, stone-lined well out back says "1918"—with subsequent owners adding on significantly in various decades. Now it’s a cozy two-bedroom, two-full-bath residence with a magnificent dog-trot hall (below) that always enchants visitors. (A room currently used as a study is easily convertible to a third bedroom.) High, 11-foot ceilings with wide crown molding add a touch of elegance, while peg rails the length of the hall retain a farmhouse feel. Original oak and pine wood floors extend throughout the home (except for tile in the main bathroom and new laminate in sun porch, kitchen, laundry, and second bath).

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

As Facebook followers of Hilton Pond know and appreciate, during the past few years we toiled to complete extensive renovations to the main bathroom, kitchen, dining room, laundry, and second bathroom, and re-painted the entire interior (including the main hall, all three bedrooms, and expansive master bath with big window and walk-in shower, below).

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

In most cases, we tried to be true to Southern farmhouse architecture, uncovering and retaining beaded board walls and ceilings wherever possible. With all our recent improvements and updates, the farmhouse is absolutely "move-in ready."

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The stylish kitchen (above) is a wonder to behold, professionally re-designed with beauty and optimum efficiency in mind; exotic Brazilian granite counter tops are breathtaking, and there's plenty of cabinet and pantry space surrounding modern appliances. (Leaving this gorgeous, functional kitchen behind may be wife Susan's biggest regret!)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

In October 2019 we added a new roof with 40-year Corning Fiberglas architectural shingles—plus new seamless black gutters (with leaf guards) and downspouts (above). These contrast beautifully with majestic farmhouse columns and white vinyl siding.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

My big-window office space is in one corner of a spacious heated sun room/exercise area (formerly an open back porch) that overlooks the pond, offering wonderful year-round views (spring, above) of flowering trees and shrubs and a plethora of feeders that attract LOTS of avian visitors. Sunsets (below) are pretty special, too, as shown on my dedicated Facebook page Sunsets Over Hilton Pond--2021, and Thereafter. (This idyllic vista will be really tough for both Susan and me to give up!)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Outside the west-facing sun room and office is a wrap-around deck (below)—complete with wheelchair ramp and amphitheater-style seating where groups of all ages have gathered for teaching/learning opportunities. There's also a smaller, just-refurbished side deck off the kitchen. A huge 8’ x 8’ patio door makes up one kitchen wall, so if you get tired of gazing at the pond from the sun porch, you can watch feeders while having breakfast, lunch, or supper at the big kitchen island.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

We've heated the Hilton Pond farmhouse efficiently and effectively with woodstoves for nearly four decades, but the house also has a modern commercial-grade Trane HVAC system that offers comfortable, energy-efficient living year-round. The furnace is fueled by natural gas, as are the on-demand whole-house Rennai water heater and functional fireplace logs in the living room. The HVAC air mover is in a stand-up crawlspace with lots of headroom.

There’s a six-inch well with sweet water--no chemical filtration needed--and a private septic system is in place (new tank and drain field installed in March 2022). The modern Whirlpool electric dishwasher, stove/oven, microwave, and refrigerator/freezer are included with the farmhouse, along with the full-size stackable LG electric washer and dryer.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The entire one-story house, adjoining carport, and decks are all handicapped-accessible, and there's a well-made 24' x 12' Graceland shop building (above)—placed handily just a few feet from the farmhouse. A huge attic suitable for year-round dry storage is reached via pull-down stairs on the spacious covered front porch; this area and adjoining carport have concrete floors, plus there's a wooden front deck with a two-person bench swing.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Hilton Pond
(winter view, above) is unquestionably a wildlife magnet. Constructed circa 1955 and about 12 feet deep at the earthen dam, it attracts everything from waterfowl and wading birds to kingfishers and kingbirds--and more!

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Through the years six large Wood Duck boxes have yielded perhaps 1,000 ducklings (with hen, above), and smaller boxes around the pond margin have housed Brown-headed Nuthatches and Prothonotary Warblers. Nest boxes elsewhere on the property regularly serve other cavity-nesters such as Eastern Bluebirds, Carolina Chickadees, House Wrens, and Tufted Titmice.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

About an acre in size, Hilton Pond has hosted Muskrats, American Beavers, and numerous species of frogs, toads, salamanders, and aquatic turtles. A pier (above) on the pond's south bank allows easy access for casting a line to catch Large-mouth Bass, Bluegills, and other panfish—but for fillets you might have to compete with a pair of elusive fish-eating North American River Otters (above) frolicking in the pond! (Complete inventories of plants and animals observed in and around Hilton Pond since 1982 are provided elsewhere on the Center's Web site.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Part of another even larger impoundment ("Not-Hilton Pond") is also on the property, as shown at left on the wintertime aerial above. Both ponds and the entire 11-acre tract are accessible via two-plus miles of well-groomed walking trails that meander across level to gently rolling terrain that is definitely not steep. The trail in the photo below--covered by fallen leaves at this time of year--goes past a sapling Southern Magnolia and then beneath an old Pecan tree.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Trails sample all major sub-habitats, from meadows to mixed woodlands to the small stream and wetland below Hilton Pond. These shady walkways—many moss-covered—are easily maintained with a riding mower, needing a quick cutting no more than bi-monthly (even during warm weather). In keeping with our environmental ethic, there is very little "lawn" that would waste time, energy, and resources. Numerous strategically placed brushpiles along the trails provide shelter for wildlife in all seasons.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The property's biggest draw for birders, of course, is the birds! Species total for our 11 acres is an amazing 173, so we're entirely certain more different kinds of avifauna have been spotted here at Hilton Pond than any single locale in York County SC. (One avian specialist called Hilton Pond the "Warbler Capital of the Piedmont," with 35 parulid species seen!) The most recent new bird for the "Yard List" was an adult Red-headed Woodpecker (above), first seen and photographed at one of our suet feeders on 3 April 2019. (I eventually caught this elegant rarity and applied a numbered leg band--our 128th banded species.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The Hiltons and our realtor know there is nothing quite like this property on the market at any price and hope its availability attracts the attention of a family that understands its provenance and intrinsic, natural worth. We have decided to offer Hilton Pond as a complete 11-acre tract (shaded in buff, above) rather than divide it into its original parcels—although that could be done by a buyer with nature-loving friends or relatives looking to build close by.

(NOTE: The three westernmost lots are currently lumped as one parcel, with most of the total 11 acres under homestead exemption at a VERY low tax rate. Thus, comps done by the buyer's agent will reveal that any property estimates on Web sites such as Zillow are inaccurate and well below true market value.)

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

To really understand what Hilton Pond has to offer its future owner, spend a little time examining the photos included on this page, and browse back through our 815-plus archived installments of This Week at Hilton Pond. We’re sure you’ll be just as enchanted as we have been during our past four decades of living here in peace with nature.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Until the property sells I’ll keep studying local natural history and banding birds like White-breasted Nuthatches (male, above). And I'll continue posting my periodic reports about nature at the Center and the Carolina Piedmont. In the meantime, you might want to examine the following MLS link (with many additional interior house photos) announcing the listing of Hilton Pond. Just click on the link and feel free to pass it on to others looking for a one-of-a-kind home in the woods.

The 11 acres, ponds & fully renovated farmhouse are offered at $499,900

Please address ALL inquiries to our realtor below.
NO DRIVE-BYS, please, that might interrupt our work.

Michael Lewis
The Josh Boyd Team—Allen Tate Realtors

Please see the full MLS listing at:

1432 DeVinney Road
York SC 29745

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The mountains are calling us . . .

. . . and so are the granddaughters!

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Payable via credit card

Payable to:

Checks also can be sent to Hilton Pond Center at:
1432 DeVinney Road
York SC 29745

All contributions are tax-deductible on your
current-year income tax form

Don't forget to scroll down for Nature Notes & Photos,
plus lists of all birds banded or recaptured during the period.

"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written and photographed by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History

Please refer "This Week at Hilton Pond" to others by clicking on this button:

Follow us on Twitter:


Comments or questions about this week's installment? Send an E-mail to INFO.


You may wish to consult our Index of all nature topics covered since
February 2000, or use our on-line
Hilton Pond Search Engine:

For your very own on-line subscription to "This Week at Hilton Pond,"
just click on the image above. It's guaranteed fat-free!

Thanks to the following fine folks for recent gifts in support of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and/or Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project. Your tax-deductible contributions allow us, among other things, to continue writing, photographing, and sharing "This Week at Hilton Pond" with students, teachers, and the general public. Please see Support or scroll below if you'd like to make a gift of your own.

We're pleased folks are thinking about the work of the Center and making donations. Those listed below made contributions received during the period. Please join them if you can in coming weeks.

Gifts can be made via PayPal (; credit card via Network for Good (see link below); or personal check (c/o Hilton Pond Center, 1432 DeVinney Road, York SC 29745). You can also donate through our Facebook fundraising page.

The following donors made direct contributions to Hilton Pond Center during the period 1-7 January 2024. (NOTE: December and end-of-year donations will be acknowledged in a future installment.)

  • None this week
  • The friends below contributed via the "Donate" button on one of the Center's Facebook postings or fundraisers; some are repeat contributors. Several have set up through Facebook to make a recurring monthly donation to benefit the Center. Many are much-appreciated long-time and/or repeat donors.
    * = Past participant in Operation RubyThroat Neotropical Hummingbird expedition

If you enjoy "This Week at Hilton Pond," please help support
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.
It's painless, and YOU can make a difference!

(Just CLICK on a logo below or send a check if you like; see Support for address.)

Make credit card donations
on-line via
Network for Good:
Use your PayPal account
to make direct donations:
If you like shopping on-line please become a member of iGive, through which 1,800+ on-line stores from Amazon to Lands' End and even iTunes donate a percentage of your purchase price to support Hilton Pond Center. ..Every new member who registers with iGive and makes a purchase through them earns an ADDITIONAL $5 for the Center. You can even do Web searches through iGive and earn a penny per search--sometimes TWO--for the cause! Please enroll by going to the iGive Web site. It's a painless, important way for YOU to support our on-going work in conservation, education, and research. Add the iGive Toolbar to your browser and register Operation RubyThroat as your preferred charity to make it even easier to help Hilton Pond Center when you shop.

The Piedmont Naturalist, Vol. 11986 (Hilton Pond Press) is an award-winning collection of newspaper columns that first appeared in The Herald in Rock Hill SC. Optimized for tablets such as iPad and Kindle, electronic downloads of the now out-of-print volume are available by clicking on the links below. The digital version includes pen-and-ink drawings from the original edition--plus lots of new color photos. All sales go
to support the work of
Hilton Pond Center.

1-7 January 2024

Winter Wren--1
Yellow-rumped Warbler--4
American Goldfinch--4
Blue-headed Vireo--1*
House Finch--15
Song Sparrow--2
Carolina Wren--1
White-throated Sparrow--1
American Robin--1

* = new banded species for 2020

9 species
30 individuals

9 species (43-yr. avg. = 65.0)

30 individuals
(43-yr. avg. =

(Banding began 28 June 1982; since then 173 species have been observed on or over the property.)
127 species banded
79,164 individuals banded

7,511 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds banded

(with original banding date, sex, and current age):
Carolina Chickadee (1)
09/17/21--4th year male
06/29/23--2nd year unknown

Downy Woodpecker (1)
05/10/23--2nd year male

--A Blue-headed Vireo netted on 7 Jan 2024 was our second of the winter but only the 22nd banded at Hilton Pond Center in 43 years. Those few that spend the winter in South Carolina are much more prevalent in the Coastal Plain.

--As of 7 Jan, the Center's 2024 Yard List stood at 32--about 18.5% of 173 avian species encountered locally since 1982. (Incidentally, all species so far this year have been observed from the windows or porches of our old farmhouse! If you're not keeping a Yard List for your own property we encourage you to do so, and to report your sightings via eBird. You, too, can be a "citizen scientist.") New species observed during the period:Great Blue Heron, Wood Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Winter Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-headed Vireo, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Common Grackle, Purple Finch, House Finch, American Goldfinch.

--Our immediate past installment of "This Week at Hilton Pond" was a summary of our 2023 bird banding year, which we are still tabulating. When complete, it will be available on the Center's Web site as Installment #819. (NOTE: Two other December installments will also be added, including a summary of the 2023 York/Rock Hill Christmas Bird Count.)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Oct 15 to Mar 15:
East of the Rockies please report
your sightings of
Vagrant & Winter Hummingbirds

(immature male Rufous Hummingbird at right)

(Back to Preceding Week; on to Next Week)

Back to "This Week at Hilton Pond" Main

Current Weather Conditions at Hilton Pond Center

The Center's backyard Web cam at Weather Underground

Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research, conservation & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., aka "The Piedmont Naturalist," it is parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Web site contents--including text and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To request permission for use or for further assistance, please contact Webmaster.