Banner Elk Spring Meeting April 27–April 30, 2023
By Paul Laurent
The North Carolina High Country is a remarkable place for birding in springtime. The woods and meadows are filled with migrating warblers and much more. The rugged mountains capped with spruce and fir trees bear a striking resemblance to lands much further north—and many species of birds that normally just pass through the Carolinas on their way to northern breeding grounds have resident breeding populations in these mountains.
Many thousands of years ago advancing glaciers pushed plants and animals out of the far north and into what is today the Carolinas. When the ice ages ended and the glaciers retreated, those northern species of plants and animals followed the glaciers back north and recolonized their traditional ranges—except here in the High Country! Our tall mountains and abundant rainfall meant that the climate here has much more in common with Nova Scotia than New Bern, and many species of plants and animals that are normally associated with far northern climates can be found thriving in these southern mountains.
We can expect to see Common Ravens, Winter Wrens, Hermit Thrushes, Brown Creepers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, as well as Canada Warblers, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Hooded Warblers, and many others breeding in the dense forests and wildflower meadows of the High Country. Countless more birds pass through these mountains on their way further north each spring.
We will have outings to many of the best birding hot spots in the High Country, including the world-famous Grandfather Mountain, spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and some fantastic local parks including Valle Crucis (which is the single best birding hotspot in the area), Brookshire Park, and the Greenway in Boone. Trout, Bass and Price Lakes are always magnets for warblers in the spring. Trips north to Elk Knob and Rich Mountain Game Lands have the chance for Golden-winged Warblers and more.
The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation has offered to host us for the Saturday Banquet at their brand-new conference room and museum. This gives us all a chance to see their new, state-of-the-art educational facility and learn more about what makes Grandfather Mountain such an incredible spot for birds. There will also be opportunities to look and listen for Northern Saw-Whet Owls on Grandfather Mountain at night!
Be prepared for cool weather, and potentially cold weather at higher elevations. If there has been rain before the meeting trails could be wet and muddy, so waterproof hiking boots are a good idea for most outings. Weather can change quickly in the mountains so make sure to bring extra layers just in case!
We will be based at the Best Western Mountain Lodge in Banner Elk, North Carolina. We have a block of rooms set aside for $127.50 per night. You can reserve your room at this link:
The Best Western is located at 1615 Tynecastle Hwy, Banner Elk, NC 28604