DAY ONE: Jan and I led an all-day birding trip along the 11 mile Stuart Memorial Drive (a.k.a. Bickle Knob/Bear Heaven) in the Monongehela National Forest. We began along the Shavers Fork River (elevation 2240 ft.) and continued upward through mature deciduous forests, younger forests with shrubby undergrowth and meadows/farm fields with many wood edges. At the top (Bickle Knob…elevation 4003 ft.) we were surprised to find six different singing male Mourning Warblers. We all had a great view of one of the birds.
We even got photos of a few of the beautiful birds we were fortunate enough to see.
We continued our journey occasionally encountering coniferous habitats, stopping often trying to spot singing birds. All along the route we heard male Scarlet Tanagers singing their territorial songs.
DAY TWO: Another all day tour, this time to the Olsen Fire Tower area and Fernow Experimental Forest. Our first stop was near Olsen Fire Tower. It was difficult to see the singing Canada Warbler, American Redstart and Veery. And although we didn’t see the Veery, it began singing its ethereal song loudly from a nearby hidden location. Click the following link to hear this beautiful song:
After a lunch stop with lots of birds at Mill Race Park in Parsons, we birded the road on the way to Fernow Experimental Forest. We didn’t have time to explore all the different habitats at Fernow, but we were treated to a wonderful look at a singing Mourning Warbler at eye-height, just a few yards away.
That evening I presented the keynote program, telling personal stories from my book, Rainbows, Bluebirds and Buffleheads.
DAY THREE: Jan and I led a 1/2 day tour in Canaan Valley called “From Floor to Ceiling” beginning along Freeland Road at 3220 ft. and ending at the top of Forest Service Road 80 near the Dolly Sods Wilderness at 4000+ ft.
I have been on this boardwalk dozens of times, but this morning was special. Willow and Alder Flycatchers were singing constantly from all directions as we slowly made our way along the trail. What a treat — their singing made it possible to tell what each of these look-alike birds was.
We also watched a Swamp Sparrow singing from a nearby shrub for a very long time.
See and listen to the following video of the Swamp Sparrow we saw and heard, with a Willow Flycatcher singing in the background, at the Freeland Road boardwalk. (video (c) Jan Runyan)
This Yellow Warbler posed on a Balsam Fir tree for everyone to see and photograph.
The video below ( copyright Jan Runyan) shows how this wetland is a great example of “perched water”: groundwater supported by a zone of material of low permeability located above an underlying main body of groundwater with which it is not hydrostatically connected.
We made several stops on our way to the top of the mountain and compared the difference in the kinds of birds we encountered based on habitat and elevation.
At the top of the mountain we found Magnolia Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Hermit Thrushes and a Brown Creeper.
The Hermit Thrush song is my favorite and all of us took the time to be still and listen to the beautiful music. Click on the following link to hear the song:
Two of the birders opened the back of their car to offer us a spread of blueberries, red raspberries and blackberries and as we were standing there eating, a Brown Creeper sang its lovely song several times. It was the only time this bird was encountered on any trip during this year’s Canaan Valley Birding Festival. Click the link below to hear the beautiful airy song of the Brown Creeper. https://download.ams.birds.cornell.edu/api/v1/asset/508341?__hstc=226533890.0540c3cdd0d4d15ded888b41495ced28.1496720896681.1496720896681.1496720896681.1&__hssc=226533890.1.1496720896681&__hsfp=4162655610
It was a beautifully fitting end to a great weekend of terrific birding with wonderful people in the West Virginia mountains.