Spring Warbler Workshop
Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
A beautiful spring morning gave way to another hot day, and though the dense foliage made it challenging to get good views of many warblers we encountered, we had a good day with lots of birds.
We began the day at Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary in North Asheville, where we got great views of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Gray Catbird. Continuing along the boardwalk some of the group got fleeting glimpses of a totally quiet Yellow Warbler as it quickly disappeared into the top of a tree, not to be seen again. At the lake overlooks we had the typical summer resident Green Heron, as well as 2 Spotted Sandpipers and a distant Great Blue Heron.
We also saw an American Redstart, possibly a young male, lacking the stark black and orange coloration of the adult, as well as a singing Northern Waterthrush. Another unexpected highlight was getting a quick view of a Northern Harrier cruising over the lake, with its white rump visible. Continuing through the sanctuary and around to the Merrimon side of the lake, we saw Barn Swallows perching on the powerlines and Tree Swallows skimming the surface of the lake and perching on the martin houses. This side of the lake proved to be a productive area as a male Orchard Oriole gave us prolonged looks, and a pair of Eastern Kingbirds chased away a Red-winged Blackbird. We then heard the characteristic whiney vocalizations of Brown-headed Nuthatches, and soon we found 3 foraging on the underside of a branch.
We then headed up to Craven Gap and hopped on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The foliage here was very dense and most of the warblers we encountered seemed to want to stick to the tops of trees, giving most of us a case of 'warbler neck,' though it did give us an opportunity to compare songs of different warbler species, including Hooded, Worm-eating, Blackburnian, and Black-throated Blue. We did manage to get some great looks at Black-and-White Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, a singing Indigo Bunting sitting in perfect lighting and some decent but distant looks at a singing Ovenbird.
For lunch we headed up to the Craggy Gardens picnic area to try for some higher elevation specialties. It was strangely quiet up there, with only two Blue-headed Vireos countersinging, and a loud and close Dark-eyed Junco. On our way back down from Craggy we stopped at a pull off where the Mountains to Sea Trail crosses the road. After a lot of hard work, we eventually found and got good looks at one of two singing Chestnut-sided Warblers, which ended a fine day of birding in the NC mountains.