Tuesday Oct 1, 2019
With Clifton Avery & Aaron Steed
The morning began before first light at the Folk Art Center in Asheville. As our group drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway the conversation in the car held an exciting tone as we speculated what birds might be flying over the high passes of the Black Mountains this morning.
We arrived at Ridge Junction just before sunrise. Calls of Swainson’s, Gray-cheeked, Wood, and Hermit Thrush greeted us as we geared up for the day. A spectacular sunrise proceeded and then soon after, the birds began streaming over the ridge.
We found an oak tree alongside the parkway that was full of warblers including Black-and-White, Black-throated Blue, Tennessee and Cape May. Barred Owls called from either side of the parkway. We began to make our way up the state road towards Mount Mitchell. A Philadelphia Vireo appeared and perched in some cherry saplings allowing our group to get nice looks and photos. Many other warblers, mostly Tennessee and Bay-breasted passed over the road.
As we began to make our way back towards our cars a rush of activity and calling was heard above our heads in the tall Spruce trees dotting the ridge. As we turned our heads to the sky we saw the reason for the sudden cacophony, an adult Peregrine Falcon perched atop a spruce. It immediately soared over our heads and disappeared over the ridge. The songbirds quieted back down and returned to busily foraging for food.
About midmorning we drove a few miles down the Parkway to Balsam Gap. Many birds were still passing through, especially Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Swainson’s Thrush, Bay-breasted Warblers, and Tennessee Warblers. Red Crossbills and Pine Siskins called as they passed overhead, occasionally landing nearby in the top of a Buckeye.
Around noon we spread out our picnic lunch in the shade. As we were all eating, a pair of Red Crossbills landed on a snag above us and then proceeded to drop down to eye level and forage just 5 feet away from our picnic! They hung around for about 5 minutes giving all of us ample time to observe them and take photos. It was a spectacular way to end a great morning of fall birding in the Appalachians.