All of the following trips start within Alleghany County. Some travel a short distance from Sparta while others stay within the county lines.
These trips are lead by Eric Harrold with Blue Ridge Excursions. For more information on these trips or others, visit www.BlueRidgeExcursions.net or contact Eric Harrold at Eric@blueridgeexcursions.net.
Ridge Junction Overlook with Ventures Birding
Sunday September 6, 2015
This is an excellent fall warbler site that offers beautiful scenery and a pleasantly cool birding environment with a hint of fall in the air. Birders will learn how to identify confusing fall warblers and will get repeated looks at several common and uncommon species. Other birds we should see are migrant hummingbirds, tanagers, vireos, and grosbeaks. Folks should remember that this site can be a bit cool in the morning, so participants might want to bring at least a jacket or fleece along. A gourmet lunch will be provided.
Burke’s Garden Fall Festival- Bird by Bike
Saturday, September 26th
With the BGFF this trip will also include a cultural component of sorts, but there should also be the opportunity to see various fall migrants including both songbirds and raptors. Burke’s Garden is a spectacular place for those who haven’t been there, offering visually-appealing landscapes throughout its expanse. We will likely carpool to this destination, but with sufficient interest, arrangements could be made for a van and bike trailer.
Winter Waterfowl -NC/VA
Northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia together offer multiple sites with a variety of winter waterfowl, primarily good numbers of both dabbling and diving duck species as well as many other birds associated with various wetland habitats. In Virginia, Rural Retreat Lake and the New River are good sites for divers, and in North Carolina, W. Kerr Scott Lake and Lake Broyhill at Camp Harrison are reliable for a number of species. There are also a number of municipal water features that attract ducks in winter as well.
Blue Ridge High Country – NC
Next: May 2016
This is an excellent spot for early returning migrants and local breeders including Cerulean Warblers and Kentucky Warblers. After visiting this site early in the day, moving up in elevation we might find Golden-winged Warblers and other high-elevation species near Elk Knob gameland. If participants need lodging accommodations, please contact me for suggestions depending upon where you’re coming from, although Boone and Wilkesboro will be the closest towns to where our trip will begin.
Grayson Highlands/ Mt. Rogers NRA
Next: Late May 2016
Several high elevation species are reliably seen here including Magnolia Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Canada Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Veery, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Alder Flycatchers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Purple Finches are also possibilities. Folks are encouraged to stay at the Alleghany Inn (336-372-2501) or another option in the Sparta area.
Canoe the New – Birding by Canoe
Available Upon Request (Need Minimum of 6)
Canoeing the New River offers birders a pleasant float through interspersed forest and fields and a great variety of birds that prefer the river corridor such as Baltimore orioles, orchard orioles, wood ducks, warbling vireos, herons, and a variety of aquatic life to enjoy. We would depart from Sparta by 7:00 and arrive at our launch point just 4 miles away and be in the water before 8:00. The float would last until noon and we should have everyone back in Sparta by 2:00. There will be an additional fee for canoe rental ($25 per person) or shuttling ($20), unless you provide your own. Folks wishing to stay at the Alleghany Inn may contact them at 336-372-2501 or alleghanyinn.com.
Burke’s Garden – Birding by Bike
Next: June 2016
Burke’s Garden is an excellent site for grassland birds that are harder to find but present in other locations in the region. Bobolinks and grasshopper sparrows are two such species to be found in the garden. Burke’s Garden General Store offers a place for lunch, or you can bring your own. We will bike the entire 13-mile loop through gentle rolling countryside at a leisurely pace. We will depart from Sparta at Alleghany Inn by 7:00 AM and return by 5:00 PM. Participants not bringing their own bike will need to let me know sufficiently prior to the trip date so that we can rent a bike from an area outfitter. Group transportation will be arranged and will require an additional fee, and you are certainly welcome to transport yourself if preferred.Folks wishing to stay at the Alleghany Inn may contact them at 336-372-2501.
Winter Raptor Trip
Available seasonally from November through February
Each winter, species of raptors that breed in northern latitudes migrate south and spend the winter in the central and southern Appalachians. There are both dependable locations where birds are consistently seen from year to year and there are sites that may be dependable one year, but not the next. With respect to the latter, these are often great to take advantage of should raptors such as Golden Eagles or Rough-legged Hawks show up. While there will be scheduled trips posted, interested participants are encouraged to schedule private trips and if their schedule permits flexibility, this is even better as many a planned outing in this area for numerous birders has been altered by weather. By November, I should have dates for scheduled trips posted.
Participants are encouraged to stay at the Alleghany Inn in Sparta, which offers a 20% discount on its usual rate for birders. Folks will find that the Inn is located within walking distance to a couple of dining venues and a coffee shop. The Inn can be at 336-372-2501 and their website is alleghanyinn.com.