April 29 – May 2, 2022
Narrative and photos by Kevin Burke
This was Ventures’ second year hosting our Asheville area Warbler Weekend. We had a great mix of experienced birders and new birders that meshed well. Spring in Western North Carolina is awesome for birding. We have a great mix of habitats that hold a wide variety of breeding warblers. In addition to breeding warbler species, we have a good number of migrants that pass through on their way to breed in the Northern boreal forests. The weather for the weekend was perfect with lows in the 50’s and highs in the low 70’s. The weekend started out with a nice “get to know you” dinner. We all quickly decided that this was going to be a great group and a fun weekend!
The first full day of birding was spent mainly in Haywood and Madison Counties centered around the Max Patch area. The first stop was Fines Creek Baptist Church. The view from this amazing place is almost worth going itself.
Our first warbler of the “Warbler Weekend” was a singing male Yellow Warbler. The highlight of the stop was a very cooperative Yellow-breasted Chat, which until a few years ago would have been included as a warbler! The area of focus for the day was Max Patch Road. Our main target for the road, was also a main target for the trip the Golden-winged Warbler. Stopping low on the road we had great looks at American Redstart, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Golden-winged Warbler.
We located the Golden-winged Warbler singing on the hill and it eventually came down to give us good looks. Moving further up the road we stopped at the most reliable spot for Golden-winged Warbler and were rewarded with great views. We also heard and saw our first Least Flycatcher of the trip. More stops on the way up the mountain proved very fruitful with looks at Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Ovenbird, Blackburnian, and Canada Warblers. This road is always extremely productive for birds.
We ended our morning with a nice picnic lunch. We listened to the seemingly endless amounts of Chestnut-sided Warblers. It is easily the most abundant warbler at high elevations in North Carolina. We tried and got very fleeting glances at breeding Vesper Sparrows. Finishing up at higher elevations, we headed down toward Asheville. Our last stop of the day was near the hotel at Westfeldt Park. Here we found a mini fall out of fifteen Palm Warblers. Northern Parula, Blackpoll, and Yellow Warblers rounded out the warblers for the day. We had dinner and drinks at Sierra Nevada. It was a great day!
The next day was spent at lower elevations to look for different species. The Green River Cove is another great migrant trap that birds use to fuel up before heading over the Appalachian Mountains. The road starts in the mountains and quickly drops over one thousand feet off the Blue Ridge Escarpment. A quick stop at the top produced a nice Black-throated Green Warbler singing away. Heading down the fifteen hairpin switchbacks to the bottom is always a lot of fun, unless you get car sick! At the bottom we had great looks at Northern Parula, American Redstart, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, and Red-eyed Vireo. A leisurely jaunt down one of the best trails in the Gamelands was very productive giving us great looks at some new warblers. We had Swainson’s, Kentucky, Prairie, Hooded, Worm-eating, Cape May, and Ovenbird all within the span of an hour and a half! A little further down the road we had great looks at Prothonotary Warbler.
Having seen the warblers on our target list we headed up to Hendersonville to the best spot for Northern Waterthrush, Jackson Park. We found two birds fairly quickly and head over to North Mills River Recreation Area to see what was over there. We had great looks at a pair of Black-throated Green Warblers and a couple more Swainson’s Warblers. It was a great day of birding! We still had one more bird to find before the trip was over.
Monday morning before departure we headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway to search for our final target species the Cerulean Warbler. We found three Cerulean Warblers at our first stop and the canopy dwellers eventually gave us good looks. We also enjoyed more great looks at Blackburnian, Hooded, and Canada Warblers. It was a great way to end the trip. We headed back to the hotel for our goodbyes and departure. This was a great trip. We ended up with twenty-six species of warblers for the weekend and one hundred and five total species. I would encourage you to sign up for this awesome weekend to enjoy the multitude of warblers in our area. We also have a Fall Warbler weekend that is just as rewarding and fun.