Authored by John Gerwin
The now-annual spring (mid-May) mountain birding trip, co-sponsored by Wake Audubon and the Museum of Natural Sciences, was another fantastic weekend of bird-watching. We were not-so-pleasantly surprised to wake up on Saturday morning to a temperature of 37 degrees! And again it was mid-May. But that is how it is in the “northern” mountains of NC.
Bobolink in flight. Photo by Dan and Sue Harvey
We left Friday morning, and our first birding stop was at a familiar hayfield along the Blue Ridge Parkway where a dozen or more Bobolinks have been breeding for nearly a decade. This year the winds were high which made for some great views of males doing their aerial courtship display flights, and chases of both males and females. Those same winds made it impossible to hear any sparrows that might have been singing – we suspect no self-respecting sparrow was even trying. We next headed to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express (which gives our group a super low rate for this time of year).
Dark-eyed Junco female with nest material. Photo by Dan and Sue Harvey
On Saturday morning, the 23 of us headed for Trout Lake trails at Moses Cone Memorial Park. Here we found various warblers, such as Black-throated Blue, Canada, Hooded, Chestnut-sided and Blackburnian. We watched a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers at their nest, feeding young, and an adorable Junco with nest material in its beak that looked like Witch’s Broom material – wispy, reddish-brown strands of something, nearly as long as the bird.
Baltimore Oriole. Photo by Dan and Sue Harvey
We headed to the Valle Crucis Community Park for lunch and after-lunch birding. This site is wonderful for finding some cool birds that are then easy to view, such as Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Cedar Waxwing, Least and Willow Flycatchers, Yellow Warbler, and this year, a Yellow-throated Vireo at near eye level and a mere 30’ away when found and first watched.
Scarlet Tanager. Photo by Dan and Sue Harvey
On Sunday we spend the morning hours at a pullover just west of Elk Knob State Natural Area. Here we found Golden-winged Warbler and more Chestnut-sided Warblers, American Redstart, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, and Common Raven. We then went into the Park to rustle up a few more species. After this we headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Jeffress Park overlook. Here we found, as before, great views of Black-throated Green Warbler. We heard Cerulean and Blackburnian but did not see either this time (we have in the past, at this spot). All in all, in spite of the low 30’s on Saturday, we had another great time enjoying the birds of this region, along with some of the spring flowers, and notoriously bad puns of from a couple of the leaders.