Sunday, May 9, 2021

Weekend in the Mountains (29Apr - 02May2021)

There is no better time to head to the mountains than the first week of May.  The leafs are only just emerging and the birds just arriving so it is easier to find them and they are just establishing territories and making themselves heard.  Even the true migrants that are not on territory are known to start practicing their songs.  First a couple local pics...

I have taken a couple drives in the northern part of New Hanover county to try and turn up a wayward Upland Sandpiper but no luck.

Red-shouldered Hawk with a snake.

A random walk in some gamelands and I ran into this old tractor.  

Summer Tanager 

BG Gnatty

Black Rat Snake?

Worm-eating Warbler

Friday evening I hightailed it up to Winston-Salem with plans to hit up Reynolda in the morning for some warbler action.  In the morning I first headed to Civitan Park to try for Warbling Vireo and although it took me a couple hours I finally found one.

Common Grackle.

American Goldfinch

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Warbling Vireo

Reynolda was absolutely beautiful and people were out in full force enjoying the weather, but I was able to find some paths that were less traveled and the birds were hidden in the green tunnels waiting to be found.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Swainson's Thrush



The song of the Veery almost rivals the Wood Thrush.

This Blackpoll was apparently singing but that's not how I found him.  I can't hear a Blackpoll's high frequency at all.

Eastern Wood-Pewee - lacked any eye-ring and the long projection of the primaries and the dusky vest matched.

Cape May Warbler

My buddy John H let me know about a Grasshopper Sparrow not far away singing on territory so I headed there next.

Grasshopper Sparrow

I told myself that if I didn't pick up Cerulean Warbler in Winston, that I would head up to Asheville.  Ceruleans breed on the Parkway but can be hard to find after May when they stop singing and hunker down in the nest.  So after this Grasshopper, I turned westward and put on a podcast for the 2 hour drive to Asheville.

I arrived at the Tanbark Tunnel at about 5 in the evening and the temperature and lighting was perfect.  It took about 5 minutes to get on a female Cerulean and another 5 for the male.  I ended up watching them for 45 minutes and finally the male dropped down into the brambles at an overlook to pick up some food items.  My guess is that food in the canopy is scarce now as the leaves were only just starting to pop at that elevation.

Female Cerulean

Distant American Redstart

Female Cerulean

Black-and-white Warbler

Male Cerulean

Blackburnian Warbler

Cerulean Warbler down low and obliging for some close photos.

I tried for Canada Warblers as the sun was going down at Craggy Gardens but the trees are all still bare and they are probably at lower elevations.  

The Mount Mitchell campground was full so I decided to head some of the way north on the Parkway and sleep in my truck off one of the dirt side roads.  I must have been exhausted because I fell asleep and had a pretty restful night despite the situation. 

Early in the morning I finished my northward movement and ended up at Meat Camp ESA outside of Boone for the break of day.  Last year a Kirtland's Warbler was found here in May and I have had Black-billed Cuckoos but this time only the resident Yellow Warblers were obliging.

We could learn a thing or two about racial unity from these cows.

Next stop was one of my favorite spots in NC, Shady Grove Gardens at the Peak.  Its almost on the border of Tennessee and in fact some routes to get there have you looping back through the Tennessee border, but the property itself is firmly in NC. The property is a successional growth hilly valley which Golden-winged Warblers love.

Chestnut-sided Warbler also love it and do their best to out-compete Golden-wings for habitat.

I was a little annoyed because a group of three arrived on the property a tad before me and they had decided the best way to find Golden-wings was to incessantly play Screech-Owl tape at full volume using a speaker.  I was going to say something but held my tongue and tried to distance myself.

At one point I heard a Ruffed Grouse drumming at the top of a small hill and managed to track it down and briefly saw it perched on its drumming log before it flushed and before I could get a pic.

Finally a Golden-winged showed!  I was starting to get worried that it was too early.

All is right in the world when I re-find my friends from previous years in the same haunts.

I still have to ID this little White.

As I left the property this Eastern Towhee gave me the stink eye, but I tried to explain the Screech-owl group was unaffiliated to me.

Last stop before heading home was Valle Crucis Community Park.  I LOVE Valle Crucis.  If we get a place in the mountains some day that will be where I get my little slice of heaven.


I was looking for a previously reported Willow Flycatcher but ended up hearing the distinctive Chebeck call of a Least instead.  I posted definitive audio to my eBird Checklist here:
Wherever I get a bird that is tricky to ID from a photo alone, I am trying to get audio.

Tree Swallow

The only bad thing about the trip was coming home and going back to work.  I can't wait for retirement.  Next up a trip to the OBX for a pelagic!

1 comment:

  1. You're looking at a good-looking Black Racer there, my friend (as opposed to Black Rat Snake). Cute little guys aren't they!