Spring in the Mountains: Black Mountain, NC
April 30 through May 3, 2020
by Marilyn Westphal and Karyl Gabriel, Meeting Planners
Who can resist a spring weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains with the myriads of neo-tropical migrants, the wildflowers, the butterflies, the beauty of those mountain ridges overlooking the fresh greening of the slopes and valleys in springtime? The Blue Ridge Parkway is such a popular trip selection that this year there will be opportunities for both full-day and half-day trips both north and south of Asheville along the Parkway. These trips should provide everyone the opportunity to see some of those coveted spring migrants like Canada, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Cerulean, and Worm-eating Warblers, as well as Blue-headed, Red-eyed, and Yellow-throated Vireos, Wood and Hermit Thrushes, Least Flycatchers, Broad-winged Hawks, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, and possibly Red Crossbills. In addition to these breeding species, other birds passing through the mountains and heading farther north such as Magnolia, Cape May, and possibly Bay-breasted Warblers might also be seen.
Once again there will be all-day trips both days to Max Patch, the best local opportunity to see Golden-winged Warblers as well as many of the other migrants that are also seen along the Parkway. This year there will also be an all-day trip to Green River Cove Road and Lake Adger, a local favorite area for Kentucky, Swainson's, and Prothonotary Warblers as well as a very popular spot for Yellow-throated Vireos, Cliff Swallows, and one of the few Great Blue Heron breeding colonies in the mountain area.
In addition to half-day trips along the Parkway, there will be several trips to local parks where both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles might be seen, as well as some of the local breeding warblers common to lower elevations. Often these parks are also some of the best spots for seeing migrants that just pass through as they head farther north, like Blue-winged, Magnolia, and Palm Warblers.
Our meeting location will be something a little different this year. It will be held at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain amid more than a thousand acres of forest with several mountain streams and miles of trails. Even just driving in or out of the property you have a good chance of hearing a variety of warblers, vireos, thrushes, and other migrants, and you may want to spend some of your free time exploring the trails on the property. This is a conference center and not a conventional hotel, so reservations will be made through the Carolina Bird Club. All rooms have two queen beds and include access to Wifi, but none have TV's or refrigerators. Bring a cooler if you need to keep something cold. Ice will be provided on-site.
As this is a YMCA facility, alcoholic beverages must remain out of sight of the public and can only be consumed inside guest rooms and meeting rooms. Total cost for single rooms for three nights including three breakfasts (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) and two dinners (Friday and Saturday evening) will be $374, and double rooms for three nights including three breakfasts and two dinners will be $225 per person (there is no tax as this is a non-profit facility). For those staying only two nights the rate will be $265.50 single and $165.50 per person double and includes Saturday and Sunday breakfast and Friday and Saturday dinner. NO single night stays are available at the facility, but there are a few hotels in Black Mountain and in East Asheville. Reservations should be made before April 8th. If any rooms are still available at the facility after that date they will continue to accept reservations, so check with CBC first before booking elsewhere. Any cancellations after April 8th will be for emergencies only.
All meals are buffet style and include gluten free and vegetarian choices. For those not staying at the facility there are two meal options available: the total meal package of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday breakfast and Friday and Saturday dinner at a cost of $77 per person, or dinner only on Saturday evening for $20.50 per person. No other mix of meal options is available. Please include meal payments with your registration. Those who sign up for all-day trips will have the opportunity to purchase bag lunches from the facility. These orders must be placed at least two weeks before the meeting, and payment will be due upon arrival at the facility. A menu will be sent to those who sign up for all-day trips when you register. For all others there is a grocery store in Black Mountain as well as a few fast food outlets and small restaurants.
Registration, guest rooms, and meeting rooms are all located in the Blue Ridge Center about 0.6 miles from the entrance to the property. The Center is on the downhill side of the parking area (not the tall building on top of the hill.) Thursday evening there will be a fun-filled opportunity to brush up on your skills identifying migratory songbirds with birder extraordinaire and owner of Ventures Birding, Simon Thompson; so, Friday morning you'll be ready to head out with more confidence. On Friday evening, Marilyn Westphal and Mark Simpson will be discussing their research project with breeding Northern Saw-whet Owls. This will include action photos and video from inside and outside active nest boxes as well as data on diet, nest success, banding, and predators caught on camera. Following a short business meeting on Saturday evening, John Carpenter of the Wildlife Diversity Project, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, will introduce plans for the proposed NC Breeding Bird Atlas. His discussion will focus on the purpose of an atlas, why we need one in North Carolina, and how NC birders can participate to make this project successful. This project requires a lot of interest from local birders to come together, but it is fun and, if you've ever read breeding bird atlases from other states you know that the results are well worth the effort.