Experience fall migration amidst the backdrop of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains on this short & sweet long-weekend tour! All nights are based in Asheville.
September is a wonderful time to be birding in the mountains of Western North Carolina. The first fronts of late summer bring in cooler, more pleasant temperatures and the first substantial, southbound waves of migratory songbirds of the fall. These conditions can create spectacular birding conditions in which mixed flocks of warblers, vireos, tanagers, thrushes and more fill the local parks, woodlands, and mountain gaps by the hundreds, sometimes thousands! On a good day, one can encounter over 20 species of warbler, including such goodies as Golden-winged & Blue-winged, Cerulean, Wilson’s, Kentucky, and Mourning Warblers, among many others.
This tour aims to catch one of these ‘waves’ and we’ll be focusing our efforts at two of the region’s most renowned migration hotspots. First - there’s Ridge Junction, a mountain gap located just below the spruce-fir slopes of Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain in the eastern US. Migrating birds following the ridgelines converge here and are concentrated as they fly through the gap. Here we hope to see a stellar sunrise plus hordes of Tennessee, Cape May, Blackburnian, Black-throated Green and Black-throated Blue and other warblers, plus Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, and Swainson’s Thrush. In addition to the migrants, we may also see some of the high-elevation residents such as Red Crossbill, Common Raven, or Red-breasted Nuthatch. Second - there’s Jackson Park, a 220-acre park that may just be the best spot for migrating fall warblers in the entire state. Featuring easy trails through its wetlands and woodlands, it has boasted one day totals of warblers in the mid 20’s, with Connecticut, Wilson’s, & Nashville Warblers all being possible. A multitude of other good birds have turned up here through the years from Olive-sided Flycatcher to Limpkin, and it may have a few surprises in store for us!
While a focus of our tour will certainly be on warblers, we’ll really be looking for any and all migrants that are passing through. Our itinerary will be rounded out with visits to a scenic hawkwatch site up in the mountains, a local sod farm which can attract shorebirds if there’s been recent rain, and a few other local parks and migrant traps in the area. We will also be sure to enjoy a few good meals at several of Asheville’s top local restaurants and breweries!
Birds we hope to see:
Warblers - Cape May, Bay-breasted, Tennessee, American Redstart, Hooded, Northern Waterthrush, Canada, Chestnut-sided, Wilson’s, Magnolia, Golden-winged, Blue-winged, Northern Parula, Worm-eating, Kentucky, and many, many more.
Others – Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, Broad-winged Hawk; Red Crossbill; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Swainson’s, Hermit, Wood, & Veery Thrushes; Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Yellow-billed & Black-billed Cuckoos; Warbling, Blue-headed, White-eyed, Yellow-throated, & Red-eyed Vireos; Scarlet Tanager; Eastern Wood-Pewee, Indigo Bunting, and many others.