Trip Report

Summer Birds and Wildflowers
August 18, 2020
Guide: Simon Thompson

August can be hot even in the mountains, but today was one of the best as I believe the temperature never made it to 70F. We began along the Parkway with several stops along the way. The Mills River Valley Overlook (where the hawkwatching takes place) produced a very obliging warbler flock feeding in a Sourwood tree. Despite the chasing going on between the birds, we ended up with great views of Blackburnian, Black-throated Green and Black-and-white Warblers. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo was calling in the high trees but never showed himself. The birds were obvious, but we were also looking down to enjoy some late summer wildflowers. Virgin’s Bower was in bloom and many of the goldenrods and asters were just beginning to break. It was always a challenge to know whether to look down or look up or glance at the butterflies nectaring on the abundant blossoms.

We climbed higher in the Balsams, where we spend time figuring out some of the notoriously-difficult asters before enjoying the seepages along the Parkway. The rock faces are a watery garden of plants all finding their niche in the cracks and fissures of the granite. Big cushions of Sphagnum moss hosted Mountain Dandelion and Michaux’s Saxifrage and the best of all, the exquisite Grass of Parnassus. We eventually found Round-leaved Sundew in bloom nestled in the seepage and did our best trying to identify the St John’s Worts along the rock face.

It was a spectacular day in one of the most beautiful places in our area.

Summer Birds and Wildflowers
August 18, 2020

Birds: Species encountered: 24 species

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay

    Common Raven
    Carolina Chickadee
    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Golden-crowned Kinglet
    Carolina Wren
    Gray Catbird
    Cedar Waxwing
    American Goldfinch
    Dark-eyed Junco

    Eastern Towhee
    Canada Warbler
    Blackburnian Warbler
    Black-and-white Warbler
    Black-and-White Warbler
    Northern Cardinal


Wildflowers: Species encountered: 49 species

Asiatic Dayflower
False Hellebore (fruit)
Rattlesnake Orchid
Orchid sp
Dutchman’s Pipe (leaves)
Pink Smartweed
Starry Campion
Virgin’s Bower
Black Cohosh (fruit)
Umbrella Leaf (fruit)
Round-leaved Sundew
Michaux’s Saxifrage
Hairy Alumroot
Grass of Parnassus

Purple flowering Raspberry

    White Clover
    Pink Clover
    Large Wood Sorrel
    Spotted Jewel weed
    Pale Jewel Weed
    St John’s Wort (Appalachian, Dwarf and Mountain)
    Evening Primrose
    Water Hemlock
    Filmy Angelica
    Galax (fruit)
    Common Milkweed
    Carolina Phlox
    Bee Balm
    Wild Bergamot
    Wild Basil
    Hoary Mountain Mint

    Purple Gerardia
    Pink Turtlehead
    Greater Bluets
    Southern Harebell
    Mountain Dandelion
    White Snakeroot
    Joe Pye Weed
    Green-headed Coneflower
    Gray Sunflower (?)
    Greater Coreopsis
    Goldenrod sp
    White Wood Aster
    Aster sp
    Rosebay Rhododendron

Butterflies: Species encountered: 3 species

    Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
    Cabbage White
    Silver-spotted Skipper