A few birding tips:
- The relatively open areas of the Orchard trails, the Orchard Road, adjacent Parkway and Hefner Gap have much more productive birding in the morning, preferably well before 10 a.m.
- Especially during spring and early summer, listening for various songs and calls is often the best way of locating birds.
- Fall migration (mid-August to early October) is the best time of the year to witness the greatest variety of species as well as individual bird numbers. It’s also an ideal time to take in the stunning mountain foliage and sample ripened apples from the Orchard!
- A good pair of binoculars is especially necessary for spotting many smaller bird species, such as Warblers.
During fall migration, local birder Bill Haddad will be happy to guide and assist visiting birders or novices, free of charge, providing that he is available that day. Please contact him in advance at (828) 766-9998.
Birding on the Deck
Barn Swallows nest under the Orchard’s deck and through much of the spring and summer can be seen gliding through the air feeding on insects. Also look for Tree and Rough-winged Swallows in this area and along the Orchard Road. Other birds commonly seen from the deck include Eastern Bluebird, American Goldfinch, Eastern Phoebe, and Turkey Vulture. Other birds, such as Indigo Bunting and American Robin occasionally appear.
Resident Warblers include Hooded, Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated, Green, and the American Redstart, but non-resident varieties populate this area during their fall migration from mid-August to early October. Wild Turkeys too are often seen on the shoulders of the adjacent Blue Ridge Parkway and appear with greater frequency and in larger numbers in the fall. Please refer to the Migratory Bird card for further information.
Resident birds seen and heard along Orchard Road from spring through fall include:
Migratory as well as resident birds are generally much more readily seen and heard during the morning hours, preferably before 10 a.m. The Orchard Road and the stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway adjacent to the Overlook just above the Orchard (walking south from that paved overlook), as well as Hefner Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway (approximately mile marker 326, 2 miles north of the Orchard) are exceptional fall migration areas from mid-August through early October.
More than 20 Warbler species are seen in these three areas during each fall migration, some more often than others and in mixed flocks, and often accompanied by other bird species, such as Orioles and Tanagers. Warblers that are seen, sometimes in exceptional numbers, include Tennessee, Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Hooded, Canada, Chestnut-sided, Northern Parula, Pine, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Worm-eating, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Black and White, Cape May, Magnolia, and American Redstart. Also seen, but not as often, are Nashville, Golden-winged, Blackpoll, Blue-winged, Prairie, Kentucky, Wilson’s, and Yellow Warblers. Very late in the fall migration, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers are also present. Often, a few varieties mentioned can be found on successive mornings.
Other migrants seen in this area during fall include Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown Thrasher, Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoo, Wood, Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Veery, Baltimore Oriole, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Wood Pewee, Cedar Waxwing, Blue-headed, Yellow-throated and Red-eyed Videos, Northern Flicker, and Northern Raven among others.