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Sugar Creek Mountain

Today, our group wound our way up to the summit of Sugar Creek Mountain via a twisty, steep-sided narrow road. Spending a leisurely several hours working our way back down, we saw lots of great birds, and other interesting flora and fauna.

All the participants at the New River Birding Festival rendezvous at 6 am for a wonderful breakfast, prepared and eaten out of doors. Not far from our meeting spot is a latrine - probably one of the more heavily scrutinized outhouses in the eastern U.S. Lights illuminate the little building all night, and by morning moths aplenty have gathered on its walls. The Rosy Maple Moth, Dryocampa rubicunda, is always a crowd-pleaser.

We did well with the birds this morning. Great looks were had of Worm-eating, Cerulean, Black-throated Green, Hooded, Yellow-throated, and Black-and-white warblers, Northern Parula, American Redstart, and many other songbirds. Here, the group takes turns admiring a cooperative Great Crested Flycatcher through my scope.

Great Crested Flycatchers typically occupy the upper subcanopy, where they can be hard to see. This one teed up on the tip of an oak, allowing us to admire his dashing cinnamon, yellow, and gray plumage, and listen to his loud war-whoop calls.

My co-leader was the fabulous Keith Richardson, who among his many other talents, is a magnificent plant gofer. Here, he wrestles a Dutchman's-pipe, Aristolochia macrophylla, to the ground so that we can admire it. This high-climbing vine is a host plant for the gorgeous Pipevine Swallowtail, and on warm sunny days Sugar Creek Mountain is awash with the butterflies.

This is why Keith pulled the plant down to our level - we wanted to admire the odd brownish flowers that give this species its common name.

We were delighted to encounter this animal, which was a life moth for all. It is an Orange-patched Smoky Moth, Pyromorpha dimidiata. The caterpillars apparently feed on leaf detritus on the forest floor. As you can see, the adults are stunning creatures, and many photos were made of the elfin beast.

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