Bird Walks and Tours Abound in this Area. - TribPapers

Bird Walks and Tours Abound in this Area.

Photo by Jeremy Hynes.

Asheville – A happy, healthy hobby that allows a person to stay outside on a beautiful day is bird watching. It can be enjoyed alone or in the company of friends. You can start slowly by observing those birds that fly in and out of your garden—the cardinal, the bluebird, the chickadee—or you can get further involved by taking walks and tours to seek out new species. Throughout the area, there are a number of Community Bird Walks that are easily accessible. Blue Ridge Audubon, a chapter of the National Audubon Society, offers three walks per month on the first, second, and third Saturdays of each month. On July 15th, from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., it will be at Charles D. Owen Park, 875 Warren Wilson Road, in Swannanoa, NC. All the dates and times are on the Blue Ridge Audubon website: No pre-registration is necessary.

Ventures Birding Tours

Ventures Birding Tours is an international birding company. Happily, however, they do lead a number of birding trips in this area to find some of the amazing creatures flying through on the way to many other countries. This weekend, July 9th, is a birding and hiking trip on the Tanawha Trail, a 13.5-mile-long trail near Grandfather Mountain in Linville, NC. This will be led by Clifton Avery, with the meeting place at the parking lot at Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center. Time: 7:30 a.m.–2 p.m. (weather depending) and the price is $60. This is limited to 8 participants. The hike is described on their website “as taking us along a short section of the trail through a fragile mountain-heath ecosystem with dramatic rock outcrops and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.” Even this late in the nesting season, we should still hear some warbler and other birdsong and may observe adults feeding recently fledged young. Some of the varieties of warblers you might see are Black-and-white, Blackburnian, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, and Hooded Warblers, as well as Indigo Bunting, Blue-headed, and Red-eyed Vireos, Wood Thrush, and Veery. These are just a few of the possible birds you may encounter while birding in this area.

The following weekend is a Wetlands and Waders tour led by Aaron Steed. The meeting place is Lake Julian Park in Asheville at 3:00 PM–7:00 PM on July 16th. This is limited to only 12 participants. At Lake Julian, one may see the long-continuing Black-bellied Whistling Duck. On the lakeshore, there may be waders, and there could be a good selection of swallows skimming the surface of the lake, or an osprey or Bald Eagle, or a gull or tern. The most regularly seen waders in WNC are the Green Heron, Great Egret, and Great Blue Heron. After that, the tour groups will head south to Henderson County to visit a couple of marshes off the beaten path, where hopefully one may get to see a Little Blue Heron.

Later on August 7th, Simon Thompson will be returning for a visit to lead a tour of Yancey and Buncombe Counties for Mt. Mitchell Birding. Mt. Mitchell rises from the Blue Ridge Parkway to an altitude of 6,684 feet, the tallest peak in the eastern United States. Typical breeding birds of the higher elevations include Common Raven, Brown Creeper, Dark-eyed Junco, Winter Wren, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hermit Thrush, and Red Crossbill. The Appalachian race of the hardy Northern Flying Squirrel, closely related to the more familiar Southern Flying Squirrel of lower-elevation broad-leaved woodlands, also occurs at this elevation. The natural history of the area at different elevations, from the foothills to the top of Mt. Mitchell, will be studied as well. The meeting place is at Ridge Junction Overlook, located at Milepost 355.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just after the entrance to Mt. Mitchell State Park, from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a price of $80. This trip is limited to 10 participants.

Once you get started on a new adventure like bird watching, it may become difficult to stop. There are more and more avenues to pursue, including purchasing guidebooks and easier-to-use binoculars. It can become a lifelong pursuit. For now, just know that bird watching will enrich your life, no matter how far you decide to pursue it.