“Mountain State Bird Discovery Weekend” at Blackwater Falls State Park – May 31-June 2, 2019

Whether you are a novice or an experienced birder, this weekend will have something for everyone!

The Appalachian mountains of West Virginia, containing ecological niches similar to all the latitudes from here to northern Canada, are acclaimed as a place to see an incredible variety of birds. This weekend celebrates that diversity with programs and trips highlighting the wide variety of birds in our Mountain State.

On Friday at 3 pm Jan will be teaching, “The Essentials of Birding.”

This class is designed to help both experienced birders and beginners expand and improve their birding abilities. Together we will explore bird appearance, behavior, location, sounds and more.

Left to right – Blackburnian Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker and Northern Saw-whet Owl (Left photo (c) Jan Runyan, 2 right photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On Friday evening at 7 pm Bill will present the program, “Sparrows of West Virginia.”

This program emphasizes identification and highlights the natural history of what some birders consider a difficult group to accurately identify.

From top left clockwise – American Tree Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On Saturday, we will leave the Blackwater Falls Lodge at 6 am and travel to the Stuart Memorial area for an all-day field trip.

With elevations ranging from 2,500 to 4,000 feet, this wonderful 10-mile drive through mixed hardwood and Red Spruce forests highlights West Virginia’s high elevation specialties. There will be many stops and some short walks in this bird-rich area. Typically, 15-18 species of warblers are seen/heard including the possibility of Golden-winged Warblers and Mourning Warblers. Species we should see/hear at the highest elevations include Brown Creepers, Winter Wrens, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Swainson’s Thrushes and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. At lower elevations, species can include Least Flycatchers, Blue-headed Vireos, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Purple Finches. We will eat lunch near/on the observation deck at Bickle Knob which offers a stunning 360-degree panorama of the West Virginia mountains.

Mourning Warbler at Bickle Knob (Photo (c) Jan Runyan)

On Saturday evening at 7 pm Bill will present the program, “Eastern Screech-owl Studies.”

Bill studied this owl species for 28 years and is considered to be one of the leading experts on the Eastern Screech-owl. Part of his research included midnight to sunrise surveys in conjunction with Wheeling, WV, Christmas Bird Counts. During those years, Wheeling, WV, consistently had the highest Eastern Screech-owl numbers in North America. Highlights of the program include trapping and breeding biology studies as well as spectacular photos of these secretive owls.

Top left clockwise – Eastern Screech-owl hatching from egg, one day-old, two weeks old and adult (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

On Saturday evening, following the Eastern Screech-owl program, Park Naturalist, Paulita Cousin will lead an “Owl Prowl” in the park.

Great Horned Owl (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

On Sunday, leaving the Blackwater Falls Lodge at 6:30 am, we will travel to the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

We will visit several areas in the Refuge including the wetlands of the Freeland Boardwalk Trail, the open meadows, wood-edges and deciduous forests of Forest Service Road 80, and the Red Spruce woods where the road ends on Dolly Sods. Through the elevation changes, many bird species will be heard and seen, possibly including Bobolinks, several sparrow species, Northern Harriers and American Kestrels in the lowlands; forest interior breeders such as Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Ovenbirds and Hooded Warblers in the middle elevations; and mountaintop species such as Blackburnian Warblers and Golden-crowned Kinglets at the top. Along the way we will listen for niche birds such as Canada Warblers, Winter Wrens and several thrush species including the Swainson’s Thrush.

Alder Flycatcher (L) and Willow Flycatcher (R) along Freeland Trail (Photos (c) Jan Runyan)

Join us for this celebration of West Virginia’s wonderful mountain bird diversity!

Registration form and additional information: https://wvstateparks.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/MountainStateBirdingFestivalRegistration.pdf

Directions to Blackwater Falls State Park: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Blackwater+Falls+State+Park/@39.1076563,-79.4972965,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x884ac93ea954f8ad:0xa67bfe42ac7e9843!8m2!3d39.1076563!4d-79.4951078

West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage May 10-13, 2018

The WV Wildflower Pilgrimage is a tradition for people who love the wildflowers and birds of West Virginia!

Each day starts with a bird walk hosted by members of the Brooks Bird Club.  On both Friday and Saturday participants choose from a dozen field trips with a wide variety of habitats, elevations and difficulty. Each trip includes a knowledgeable plant leader, one of the BBC’s best bird teachers, and, occasionally, another expert in areas such as geology, mosses or ferns. Thursday and Friday both end with an interesting program.

Come discover why so many “pilgrims” return year after year!

Jan and I will be leading bird walks, field trips and giving a class during the Thursday afternoon to Sunday noon event. See below for what we are offering at this year’s Wildflower Pilgrimage.

Thursday late afternoon — Jan will be teaching a Birding Essentials workshop at the Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge.

Friday —  Jan will lead a tour to Cranesville Swamp, a National Natural Landmark.   It is one of the few remaining boreal bogs in the southern United States, unusual because it harbors many plants and animals that are normally only seen in more northern climates.  Eastern hemlock, red spruce and American larch are some of the few trees which flourish in this acidic boreal bog.  The northern relict wetland complex also supports a wide variety of smaller plants such as goldthread, trailing arbutus, gay wings, several species of sundews, cranberry and a variety of ferns and mosses.  The nineteen diverse wetland communities of Cranesville are home to such birds as Blackburnian, Magnolia and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Alder Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Indigo Bunting and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Pilgrims will walk less than 1 1/2 miles on mostly flat forest and meadow trails and on a boardwalk into the wetland. Restrooms will be available in nearby Oakland, MD, before and after the tour.

Left to right: American Larch… Trailing Arbutus… and Gay Wings and Goldthread (All photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Friday — I will lead a Dolly Sods Wilderness Hike. We will start at the Rohrbaugh Plains trailhead on top of Dolly Sods. The hike begins through a mixed red spruce/deciduous woodland where we will be greeted with a variety of bird songs — mostly warblers… Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Ovenbird, Yellow-rumped and Magnolia. This trail is rocky at times and eventually traverses a mixed hardwood/evergreen forest. Lunch will be at the Rohrbaugh Plains vista looking south through the Red Creek Valley and west toward Rocky Point (Lion’s Head). The vista is one of the best scenic overlooks in WV. After lunch we will continue on the Wildlife Trail, traveling through several meadows and some deciduous woodlands. There will be opportunities for wildflower and bird identification, however, this tour’s primary focus is the spectacular beauty of Dolly Sods. Hiking shoes/boots are required. Appropriate rain gear is required. There will be restroom facilities available at the Dolly Sods Picnic Area before the hike.

Lunch at the Rorhbaugh Plains vista (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

Saturday — Together Jan and I will lead hikes in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The Beall North and South Trails traverse a mix of open meadows and deciduous woodlands allowing for a large variety of plants. Parts of both trails border the Blackwater River. These are not rugged trails — they are mostly level with moderate or shorter steep elevation changes and few rocks on the trails. The entire hike will be scenic in varying ways. The birding should be excellent with the beautiful song of Hermit Thrushes possible along the entire 3 1/2 miles. A nice variety of warblers are expected. If time permits we will then travel to the nearby Idleman’s Run Trail off Forest Service Rd. 80 for a more botanical/wildflower walk. Idleman’s Trail is just 4/10 mile. It gently slopes uphill the entire way and is quite notable for all the interesting plants we can encounter. Hiking boots/shoes and rain gear are recommended. “Facili-trees” are the only restrooms available on these hikes.

The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge Beall Trails (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)
Idleman’s Run in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge (Photo (c) Bill Beatty)

The Wildflower Pilgrimage is one of the best ways to learn and have fun in some of the most biologically outstanding and scenic areas in WV’s mountains!

For additional information and to register go to: http://www.brooksbirdclub.org/uploads/5/2/8/3/52832773/2019_wfp_brochure_fillable.pdf

Directions to Blackwater Falls State Park: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Blackwater+Falls+State+Park/@39.1076563,-79.4972965,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x884ac93ea954f8ad:0xa67bfe42ac7e9843!8m2!3d39.1076563!4d-79.4951078

Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines class for the Master Naturalist Program – May 26, 2018, 9-Noon

This class is open to the public, but you must preregister.

Left to right… Deciduous Forest, Highbush Cranberry and Dutchman’s Pipe Vine (Photos (c) Bill Beatty)

In this class, students will learn some of the more common woody plants, what makes woody plants different, and clear up the confusion over deciduous, evergreen and coniferous trees.  We will also discuss how to collect and preserve woody plants, the importance of woody plants to humans and wildlife, and how to approach further study, including helpful references.
This class is held at the Good Zoo at Oglebay Park.  Part of the class will include hands-on working with the plants and references materials outdoors so dress for the weather.
Call – 304-243-4100 to register

West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage May 10-13, 2018

Left – Rainbow over Pendleton Point…. Right – View from Lindy Point. (Both photos taken at Blackwater Falls State Park (c) Bill Beatty)

This event is a tradition for people who love the wildflowers and birds of West Virginia.

Each day starts with a bird walk.  On both Friday and Saturday participants have a choice of a dozen field trips  to a wide variety of habitats and elevations.  Thursday and Friday end with interesting programs.

Come discover why so many “pilgrims” return year after year!

Jan and I, along with other Brooks Bird Club leaders, will be leading early morning bird walks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Thursday late afternoon, Jan will be teaching a Beginning Birding and Beyond workshop at the Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge.

Friday, Jan will lead a tour to the Cranesville Swamp, a National Natural Landmark.   It is one of the few remaining boreal bogs in the southern United States, unusual because it harbors many plants and animals that are normally only seen in more northern climates.  Eastern hemlock, red spruce and American larch are some of the few trees in this acidic boreal bog.  The northern relict wetland complex also supports a wide variety of smaller plants such as goldthread, trailing arbutus, gay wings, several species of sundews, cranberry and a variety of ferns and mosses.  Nineteen diverse wetland communities are home to such birds as Blackburnian, magnolia and chestnut-sided warblers, alder flycatcher, golden-crowned kinglet, indigo bunting and northern saw-whet owl.

Left to right: American Larch… Trailing Arbutus… and Gay Wings and Goldthread (All photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Friday, I will lead a Dolly Sods Wilderness Hike.  The hike begins at the Red Creek Campground on Blackbird Knob Trail. We cross Alder Run, travel across some open and scenic areas, then cross Red Creek just downstream from several active beaver dams, and continue to the north-east side of Blackbird Knob (elev. 3,950) where we will eat lunch. On the return trip, we follow Red Creek downstream to the junction of Alder Run and follow Alder Run Trail to the junction of the Beatty Labyrinth. This part of the hike is mostly open and quite scenic. The hike then follows Alder Run Bog Run upstream through spruce woods and eventually joins the Blackbird Knob Trail near where we began at the Red Creek Campground. This is the most difficult part of the hike since it is at the end of our trip. There are 15 small stream crossings, one long rock field to cross, and is casually uphill most of the time. There will be opportunities for scenic views, wildflower and bird identification, perhaps map and compass use, and experiencing the spectacular beauty of Dolly Sods. Hiking shoes/boots are required; Red Creek may have to be waded if water is high; appropriate rain gear is required. Restroom facilities are available before and after the hike.

Sunrises along the Allegheny Front (All photos (c) Bill Beatty)

Saturday, Jan and I together will lead several shorter hikes, “Special Hikes to Favorite Places on Dolly Sods.”  The first hike is a 1.2 mile (round trip) on the Old Growth Trail which begins going through a red spruce woods with mountain laurel/rhododendron borders and ends in an old growth deciduous woods with a variety of high mountain spring wildflowers, interesting birds and giant oak trees.  Then we drive a short distance to our second hike: the 2.2 mile (round trip) High Mountain Meadow Trail.  This trail leads through a variety of habitats, crosses Alder Run Bog, and continues through a large red pine forest with an extensive undergrowth of ferns,  The trail ends at an area of high mountain meadows which we may explore.  The last hike, time permitting, is along the Allegheny Front Vista Trail.  Hiking 1/4 – 1 mile (round trip) we will enjoy some of the best scenic overlooks in West Virginia.  Hiking boots and rain gear are required!

Additional information and registration: https://1djciw2nayur2c2mvt4dir9d-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Pilgrimage.2018.pdf