An easy morning exploring the fields at Kituwah Farm near Bryson City for a variety of sparrows, followed up by an afternoon of duck-watching at Lake Junaluska. The trails and roads we walk will be flat, but they could be muddy, so we recommend good hiking boots.
Kituwah Farm is a 309-acre property situated on the banks of the Tuckaseegee River in Swain County, a few miles east of Bryson City, NC. Also known as Ferguson Fields, this is one of the seven mother towns of the Cherokee tribe in the Southeast and is a site of great historical significance. The ancient, earthwork mound, which can be viewed on the property, is a remnant of the great council house that existed here 200 years ago. In past years, the site has been used for growing crops, grazing cattle, and even as a small airport, but in 1996 the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians reclaimed the land for the tribe. The habitats here are a mix of early successional grassy fields, floodplain forest and riparian corridor, all of which are quite attractive to a good variety of overwintering birds, especially sparrows. We’ll spend our morning walking the dirt roads and paths along the ditches and rows of vegetation, where we should see White-crowned, White-throated, Swamp, Song, Savannah, and Field Sparrows. These open fields are also great for raptors - Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Cooper’s, and Sharp-shinned Hawks as well as Northern Harrier and American Kestrel are all possible.
After lunch, we’ll switch gears and head to Lake Junaluska, a fantastic place for waterfowl in winter. In addition to the resident Mute Swans and expected Canada Geese and Mallards, we have the chance of seeing Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, Hooded Merganser, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, and more. Such rarities as Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser and Ross’s Goose are possible as well.
This tour features some of the best winter birding that WNC has to offer - join us for what should be an excellent day!