This is the fifth in our new series of County Birding Day-trips. Many of us enjoy County Birding with eBird’s new county maps and the multiple hotspots. We will explore as much as we can during our day and try to hit some of the best hotspots. The birding and pace will be easy, but there will be a fair bit of walking, so wear comfortable footwear and bring suitable clothing and your lunch.
Located along the Blue Ridge Escarpment, Burke County has a great mix of high and middle elevations. The Blue Ridge Parkway snakes its way past Linville Falls on its way to Grandfather Mountain (Avery County) while the lower elevations are a mix of agricultural lands with riparian forests following the rivers. Mixed pine and deciduous forests are scattered throughout the open country and Lake James offers some pretty good waterfowl habitat.
We will meet at the Rocky Ford Access to the Catawba River Greenway, where we will walk the greenway along the Catawba River. Birding will be typically riparian with Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher and Eastern Phoebe. Fish and American Crows are in the area, and we could run into small flocks of wintering sparrows along the way.
It’s a short drive east to Lake James, which is the largest lake in the area. There are several different access points to the State Park and we will check out several of these that offer good visibility over Lake James. Here we could get Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Bald Eagle and both Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s Gulls. Brown-headed Nuthatches and Pine Warblers are resident in the nearby pines, and depending on the weather, we may get an early Yellow-throated Warbler or Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Join us for an enjoyable day exploring some of the varied habitats that make up Burke County; a very under-birded county with a total eBird list of just over 200 species. Let’s see if we can add a couple to the list on our day today as we explore the county.