By Simon Thompson, Bird Adventures
It is an excellent time of the year to familiarize yourself with the more common birds found in this part of North Carolina. One quick and easy way of starting out is to set up a simple bird feeder, fill it with seed and sit back and wait for the action to begin.
Binoculars with a magnification of no greater than eight are essential, plus a current field guide and, most importantly of all, a notebook and pencil with which to record your notes.
It should not take long for the birds to discover your newly-positioned bird feeder, and the first ones to investigate this new food source will most probably be Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice, followed closely by Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays and Mourning Doves. All of these species are fascinating to watch as they come and go to the feeder.
While you are watching the birds, resist the temptation to sit next to the window with a field guide in hand, flipping through the pages when a new bird appears. This is the correct time to use your notebook to record dates, weather conditions and a description of the mystery bird at the feeder. Buying a bird book relevant to your region of the country is also useful with the best being one that is easy to use- with distribution maps and clear, concise text. Consult your local bird store for recommendations.
Asheville Area Bird Clubs
Several local groups offer monthly birdwalks, led by local birding experts. The Henderson County Bird Club holds monthly birdwalks in Jackson Park on the second Saturday of every month, while the Asheville based, Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society has walks at their Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary on the first Saturday of every month. Take advantage of their expertise and start to learn about the birdlife in your area.
- Henderson County Bird Club, PO Box 5031, Hendersonville, NC 28793
- Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, PO Box 18711, Asheville, NC 28814-0711
Birding Tours in Western North Carolina Mountains
Ventures Birding Tours has local day trips here in the WNC Mountains, weekends at the coast and even birding tours around the world. They take small groups birding and offer a friendly, informative program throughout the year. Check for upcoming tours at www.birdventures.com.
Great Local Birding Places
(See more with a Birding Top 5 List). From the Blue Ridge Parkway and Dupont State Park to Chimney Rock Park and Mt Mitchell, there is a wealth of good local birding areas to choose from. Again, talk to your local bird experts and they will have information on “what’s hot and what’s not” depending on the season and elevation.
Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville north to Mt Mitchell
Just a few minutes from my front door, I like to drive higher and higher in elevation from Asheville high into the Blue Ridge and eventually up to Mt Mitchell. Every season is different and the birding can be terrific from spring through late fall. If I missed spring in Asheville, I am bound to catch both the wildflowers and the birds as I climb into the Spruce-Fir zone high atop the peaks. Best birding time: April- October
Jackson Park, Hendersonville
This is one of my favorite spring and fall birding spots. Since we started the regular birdwalks over 10 years ago, it has become a birders favorite. Nearly every migrating songbird in the east has been recorded here, with as many as 23 warblers recorded in a single day! Seldom seen on migration in this area, we have found both Connecticut and Mourning Warblers in the park. Best birding time: All year except July-August
Blue Ridge Parkway south towards Shining Rock/Black Balsam (includes NC Arboretum)
Black Balsam, Devil’s Courthouse and the Blue Ridge Parkway south towards Waynesville offers some fine birding, although it’s hard to drag myself away from points along the BRP heading north. Northern Saw-whet Owls are easy to hear in the northern hardwoods zone and if I want to see an Alder Flycatcher, it’s off to Black Balsam/Shining Rock for me. Plus the evening chorus of Veerys is truly evocative of the Blue Ridge. Best birding time: April- October
Chimney Rock Park, Chimney Rock
Have you ever seen the elusive Swainson’s Warbler? If not, they are regularly found in the rhododendron tangles in Chimney Rock Park. Join one of our regularly scheduled Chimney Rock Park birdwalks during the summer months as warblers are the big attraction with the Black-throated Green Warbler being the most common and obvious species. Within the cove-forest and associated oak-hickory woodland, there are also many Hooded, Black-and-white, and Worm-eating Warblers. Swainson’s Warblers are fairly common in the dense rhododendron thickets, while a pair of Peregrine Falcons is usually present in Hickory Nut Gorge and has nested within the park. Best birding time: April- November. Read about the Chimney Rock Birding Weekend.
Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary, Asheville
Just 5 minutes north of downtown Asheville, Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary is a haven from the traffic noise and daily hubbub. Guided bird walks are usually the first Saturday of each month at 9 AM. Meet at the gazebo at the sanctuary on Merrimon Avenue for a very pleasant insight into the seasonal birding in this area. Best birding time: All year except mid-summer
Fletcher Community Park, Fletcher
Right in the heart of Fletcher is another great little birding spot. It’s odd being surrounded by ball-fields and dogs, but the small wetland has breeding Willow Flycatcher, Orchard Oriole and Yellow Warbler. Walk the edges and Greenway here. Best birding time: All year except mid-summer.
Simon Thompson lives in the Asheville area but leds birding trips all around the world with his Ventures Birding Tours. Originally from Suffolk, England, he has lived in Lebanon, Kenya, Yemen, and Ghana, where his interest in birds and natural history began.