An easy but exciting day spent birding along flat trails and dirt roads at some of WNC’s most famous hotspots. Our primary focus will be finding post-breeding Mississippi & Swallow-tailed Kites, plus any other noteworthy birds that happen to be around. Comfortable footwear and sun protection will be essential, and we recommend bringing rain gear as well!
While the mid-summer heat and quiet woods of August may leave many local birders yearning for cooler north winds and the onslaught of fall migrants, there are still exciting birding opportunities to be found all month long here in Western North Carolina – if you know where to look!
This month’s ‘Rarity Round Up’ will devote special attention to finding Mississippi & Swallow-tailed Kites, birds which breed in the eastern Carolinas but are rarely seen in the mountains. Over the last few years WNC has seen significant post-breeding movements of both species in mid to late August, with small flocks putting on a show while they hunt dragonflies and other airborne insects over fields and open country. Our trip will concentrate on those areas in Buncombe, Henderson, and McDowell Counties where they have been previously seen, and with luck we will get to enjoy the dazzling aerial feats of these acrobatic fliers.
Summer rains will offer additional potential for a good shorebird selection, with Piping Plover, American Avocet, Baird's & Upland Sandpipers, and Willet all having shown up in previous years. Post-breeding waders are also a possibility, and we could stumble upon Little Blue or Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, one of the Night-Herons, or maybe even a Wood Stork. Even without recent rain, places like Hooper Lane in Mills River will be worth a check - Long-billed Curlew and Buff-breasted Sandpiper have been seen here at times when there was not a puddle in sight! Other notable rarities recorded at this time of year have included Lark Sparrow, Loggerhead Shrike, and Olive-sided Flycatcher, a rare but annual migrant. There is always the potential for a new discovery as well!
Even if luck is not on our side with the kites and other rarities, there should still be a nice selection of swallows passing through with everything from Barn, Tree, Cliff, Northern Rough-winged, and Bank all possible. We will also look for one of the early mixed flocks of 'fall' migrants, which could include Swainson's, Kentucky, Prothonotary, and Blue-winged Warblers, plus any number of more common neotropical migrants.
Our itinerary is up in the air, as are the birds that will be around – but that's just part of the fun!