A morning spent exploring the woodlands and fields of Sandy Mush Gamelands for a variety of sparrows and other early arriving winter species. Mostly easy walking along dirt roads and paths, with minimal steep hikes. Trails may be muddy. Bring good hiking boots and long pants.
Sandy Mush Game Land sprawls across northern Buncombe County and into Madison, encompassing habitats which vary from open, managed cut-over areas to cove and riverine forests along Sandymush and Turkey Creeks, and the French Broad River. Its relative remoteness means that its 2,767 acres remain somewhat unexplored, but it is quickly becoming one of our favorite birding areas in WNC. With breeding Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Blue Grosbeak, it is primarily known as a spring hotspot, but fall can be excellent here as well, and we have had some memorable day trips over the last few years.
On this relaxed fall day trip, we will expect to find a nice mix of resident birds and newly arrived winter species. Sparrows should be in good numbers with White-throated, White-crowned, Song, Swamp, Field and Chipping all likely, and this is a great time of year to be looking for Lincoln’s & Vesper Sparrows as well. Northern Bobwhite are resident in the fields and occasionally we get to see them. American Kestrels reside throughout the game land and we should see a few of these small, beautiful falcons perched on telephone poles and wires, or hovering over the grass looking for prey. Eastern Meadowlarks are findable here while Wild Turkeys are easy to see. Large birds of prey can be common at this time of the year and include Red-tailed, and Red-shouldered Hawks, Northern Harrier and perhaps Bald Eagle. We have also had quite a few days in which we have found all 3 nuthatch species – Brown-headed, Red-breasted, and White-breasted. In years of good cone crops, even Red Crossbills have been recorded here, either feeding in the short-leaf pines or as flyovers!
Join us for a day of easy birding at this unique location - who knows what surprises we may find in this under-birded part of the county!