Summer Birds and Wildflowers
Venture to the Higher Reaches of the Blue Ridge, Western NC
Trip Report: Wednesday, July 18, 2018
The weather predictions were for a lovely day with no rain, but usually the bets are off in these mountains. We all met in the morning (armed with raincoats just in case) and drove south towards the Smokies. The temperature was wonderful and the forested mountains just carpeted the mountains – a beautiful sight indeed. Our first stop was at the Pisgah Inn, where the view seemed to go on forever. The fall wildflowers are sometimes more impressive than those in the spring and below us the autumnal floral show was beginning to appear. Yellow Evening Primroses were tall and showy, brilliantly purple Leatherflowers clambered in the vegetation and Wild Bergamot grew in the shady forest edges.
It was still a beautiful day as we watched an Alder Flycatcher along the Black Balsam Road where a Veery sang its ethereal song and small family groups of Cedar Waxwings sat in the tops of the spruce trees. Unfortunately (or fortunately for the future) the Blue Ridge Parkway was being re-surfaced most of the way to Cherokee, so we never made it all the way to Heintooga. Despite that fact, the wildflower show along the road was stunning. Sunflowers, Phlox and Goldenrods were either in full bloom or starting to flower and what was more impressive was the huge number of Pipevine Swallowtails feeding on the fall flowers. Clusters fed on the Turk’s Cap Lilies allowing for some great photographic opportunities.
We finished our day with a walk at Waterrock Knob high in the Balsams. This can be a fairly reliable spot for Black-capped Chickadee, but the individual we found sang like a Black-capped and called like a Carolina. Apparently there is evidence of hybridization in this part of the mountains! The Pipevine Swallowtails were even more impressive here with hundreds, if not thousands, nectaring on the flowers. What a show and what could be better than a stunning day in the Mountains immersed in nature. Thanks to everyone who came along for making the day so enjoyable.