Ventures runs many day trips throughout the Carolinas every year, especially in the western portion of the region. From warblers and woodpeckers in the highest peaks and spruce fir forests around Mt. Mitchell to tanagers and cuckoos in the rich lowland woodlands of the South Carolina Piedmont, we find new and exciting birding destinations throughout our area. Some places are "must visit" spots from year to year but others are new to the birding world. Join us as we explore our own backyard in the Carolinas.

 

 

 

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Andrews Bald Hike

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC
June 24, 2018

Leader: Keith Watson

          

   Andrews Bald at 5747 feet (1752 m) is the highest grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offering spectacular displays of the Unaka and Balsam Highlands of the Southern Appalachians.  Hiking the 1.71 miles to Andrews Bald from Clingmans Dome parking area will take us through a montane coniferous forest similar to the boreal forest of Canada, but entirely unique to any ecosystem in North America. Here, Red Spruce, Fraser Fir, Yellow Birch, Mountain Ash, and Pin Cherry dominate the overstory while a variety of high elevation shrubs, mosses, and ferns occupy the understory.  On the bald itself, the incredible show of flowering Flame Azalea and Catawba Rhododendron in late June accent this wonderful high elevation floral experience.  The first mile is downhill, the remainder is a mixture of up and down.  On the return hike, the last mile is uphill, but we’ll take plenty of breaks and have our lunch.

Heintooga and the Foothills of the Smokies

Summer Birds & Wildflowers
July 18, 2018

Leader: Simon Thompson

          

   This 9 mile spur road continues to a parking area, where a short trail leads to one of the most spectacular views in the mountains - a panorama of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Mt. LeConte at the center. Wildflowers along this stretch of road could include Monkshood, Featherbells, Southern Harebell, Tall Bellflower, Turk's Cap Lily, Goldenrods, Sunflowers, and many more. This is also a great birding spot and is very dependable for Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, and Blackburnian Warbler.

Shorebird Workshop at Rankin Bottoms, TN

August 26, 2018

Leader: Kevin Burke

          

   Rankin Bottoms is a Wildlife Management Area on the shores of Douglas Lake at the confluence of the Nolichucky and French Broad Rivers near Newport, TN.  When the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) performs its annual draw down of the lake in late summer, the exposed mudflats attract a variety of migrating shorebirds and waders. Some days during late summer can be absolutely spectacular here! Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral and Least Sandpipers and Black-crowned Night-Heron are just a few of the more common birds we should see. Buff-breasted Sandpipers, although uncommon, are seen here every year along with Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, and more. Rarities and surprises occur here as well – we have had both American Avocet and Red Phalarope here on past tours!

    Prothonotary Warblers breed here and there may still be a few around in late August. We’ll also keep our eyes peeled for any other early songbird migrants, as well as any gulls or terns (Black, Forster’s and Caspian are possible).

Fall Warbler Workshop 1

Jackson Park Hendersonville, NC,
September 5, 2018

Leader: TBA

          

   Jackson Park in Hendersonville is easily one of the best fall birding spots in all of WNC. Nearly every migrating songbird in the east has been recorded here, with as many as 23 warblers recorded in a single day! Seldom seen on migration in this area, both Connecticut and Mourning Warblers, have been found in this park. More likely to be seen are Blackburnian, Cape May, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue, Northern Waterthrush -- the list goes on and on! Early September is a great time to be looking for Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers as they pass through on their way south. Not only warblers are abundant in the fall; Philadelphia and Warbling Vireos are seen occasionally, along with Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos. Swainson's and Wood Thrushes can be seen feeding on the berries at the tops of the trees along the woodland walk, and both Yellow-billed & Black-billed Cuckoos have been spotted as they migrate through the park.

Big Bald Banding Station, NC/TN

September 16, 2018

Leader: Aaron Steed

          

   Our day begins with a short hike up to Little Bald birding along the way. At this time of year, migrants should be numerous. Mixed flocks of fall-plumaged Tennessee, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian and Magnolia Warblers, as well as a selection of tanagers, vireos, grosbeaks and flycatchers, will be foraging in the wooded patches near the base of Big Bald. At the station, we will get to see the songbird banding process as each individual bird is banded, measured, weighed and released. Seeing birds such as warblers and Empidonax flycatchers up close as they are banded provides an invaluable insight into plumage and structural differences that can aid in field identification.

Spectacular Fall Migration

Ridge Junction Overlook, WNC
September 19, 2018

Leaders: Kevin Burke & Clifton Avery

          

   Ridge Junction Overlook is one of the best spots in the Blue Ridge to enjoy the fall migration of warblers and other passerines. Over the past few years there have been over 25 species of warblers seen at this spot, including Blackburnian, Magnolia, Mourning, Cerulean, Chestnut-sided, Hooded, Black-and-white, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green…the list is endless. We even had a young female Kirtland’s Warbler on one of our past trips here! Other species include Broad-winged and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Swainson’s, Wood, Gray-cheeked, Hermit Thrushes & Veery, Red-eyed, Blue-headed and Philadelphia Vireos, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager and many more. This is also one of the most reliable spots in the mountains for Red Crossbills.  We will enjoy the passage of birds through the gap and also work on the identification of those “confusing fall warblers!” Join us for a relaxing morning enjoying fall migration in the Blue Ridge.

Fall Migration Historic Orchard at Altapass

Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
September 21, 2018

Leader: Clifton Avery

          

   Historic Orchard at Altapass to view birds migrating south.  Altapass is one of the lowest elevations on the Blue Ridge Parkway, providing a funnel effect for birds heading south for the winter. We will spend the day birding above and below the orchard, which are well known hotspots for migrating warblers.  We will also learn about the history of the Orchard at Altapass and what conservation measures the organization has taken to ensure protection of the orchard and native flora and fauna.

   Altapass in the fall usually provides exciting surprises as to what flies by each day in terms of species diversity and abundance.  We can expect to see: Ruffed Grouse, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Great-crested Flycatcher, Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireo, Swainson’s Thrush, 10-15 species of warblers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.