Kituwah Farm & Lake Junaluska Day Trip
February 5th, 2017
We started the morning off at Kituwah near Bryson City, NC. This was the site of one of the" seven mother towns" of the Cherokee Nation. There are roughly 300 acres of open field and edge habitat to explore here, making this a great place for winter sparrows, raptors, and a wealth of other species. The crows were everywhere feeding in the fields. We counted a conservative estimate of 150 over our 2.5 hour walk around the fields. The first sparrow species we came across was two Savannah sparrows.
They perched on some leftover stakes near the path to give us all good looks. We were all startled by a small group of Kildeer as we walked further along the path. The Blue Jays were everywhere in the trees, and on the ground feeding. A couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers flitted around the trees and afforded us great looks. As we walked deeper into the fields we were treated to several more Sparrow species including: Song, White-crowned, and White-throated. As we were wrapping up our time at Kituwah an American Kestrel appeared and perched on a nest box.
We parted from our normal picnic lunch and opted for the warmer meal at Kostas Restaurant in Dillsboro. It was a nice lunch and we even spied a Turkey Vulture and Cardinal from the parking lot.
The afternoon warmed up nicely and we headed over to Lake Junaluska. This lake has traditionally been a great place for waterfowl in the winter, as we would soon find out. We started out walking over the bridge that crosses over the lake. Two Pied-billed Grebes were actively foraging alongside multiple American Coots. A very nicely lit Great Blue Heron posed for some pictures. As we walked along the water on the path a very cooperative perched Coopers Hawk gave us great looks before diving behind a house. A nice mixed flock of Eastern Bluebirds, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Chickadees, and a Downy Woodpecker showed nicely.
As we turned our focus to the water again we started to notice that the lake was holding some ducks. We observed Ruddy Ducks, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, Bufflehead, Mallard, and Northern Shoveler. We were all surprised to see a Horned Grebe swimming in amongst the ducks. We watched the ducks foraging and chasing each other very close to the shore. After a great show put on by the ducks the day was getting long, so we decided to finish our walk around the lake. We were treated to the resident Bald Eagle flying over the lake and landing on a pine tree. It was a very nice end to a great day of birding.