Skip to main content

Cranberry Glades Botanical Area

One of my favorite places ANYWHERE is the magical Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, nestled in a lofty bowl high in the mountains of West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest. They might have just as easily dubbed this the Cranberry Glades Ornithological Area, so rich is it with interesting and regionally significant breeding birds.

We were there on a foray as part of the recent New River Birding & Nature Festival, and following are a few snapshots of the place.

Serious students of botany make regular pilgrimages to these lofty heights, to drink in alluring bog plants normally found far to the north.

The first thing one notices are spruce - lots of spruce. They are Red Spruce, Picea rubens, a conifer of the north that ranges south along the high, cool mountains of the Appalachians. It, along with abundant Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, create a very boreal habitat. Northern birds, such as Red Crossbill and Olive-sided Flycatcher, breed here, far south of their core distributions.

A vast boggy meadow of cranberry fills the bowl. Most of it is Small Cranberry, Vaccinium oxycoccos, with a bit of Large Cranberry, V. macrocarpon here and there. This habitat is a treasure trove for those seeking rare botanical jewels such as Bog-rosemary, Andromeda polifolia, or Round-leaved Sundew, Drosera rotundifolia. Those more interested in macro-beasts are sometimes rewarded by the spectacle of a Black Bear shuffling down the boardwalk.

A showy Mountain Serviceberry, Amelanchier bartramiana, foreshadows the boggy spruce forests and cranberry meadows. The serviceberry is at its southernmost limits at Cranberry Glades.

The boardwalk traverses a hemlock-yellow birch forest. Springy and super-saturated, this habitat is a riot of yellow Marsh-marigold, striking blue-purple Marsh Blue Violet, and many other vernal bloomers. Birds abound as well. We saw northerners such as Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Blue-headed Vireo, and Dark-eyed Junco. All breed here.

Memorable moments are routine at the Glades, and one that our group will surely not forget anytime soon was an especially obliging Canada Warbler. A beautiful male, with no goading of any kind from us, popped into a spruce next to the boardwalk and eyed us with apparent curiosity while we stood in shell-shocked awe. It came within two feet of me, and at one point I thought it might land on my outstretched hand.

A bold Red-breasted Nuthatch plays the part of Cranberry King from a lofty, lichen-encrusted branch. These diminutive nuthatches also nest here, and their tin horn yammerings are a regular part of the avian sound track.

Another special moment occurred when a Blackburnian Warbler - flamethroat! - took umbrage at the nuthatch's goofy yank-yanking toots. There's the Blackburnian at the lower right, seconds before he roared up there and sent the nuthatch packing.

We'll be back up here in the misty mountains next year. If you can make the New River Birding & Nature Festival 2011, you'll get to see the place with your own eyes.


Wil said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wil said…
Wow, great shots Jim. I too love this special place. It is certainly magical.
Here is a link to the song of the Northern waterthrush:
Blue-headed vireo:
And the Blackburnian warbler:
Feel free to add them to the post if you like.
Murr Brewster said…
I was there with you last Saturday and I want to thank you again for your generosity and knowledge.
Jim McCormac said…
Thanks for the nice links, Wil, and it was once again a pleasure to get afield with you and Donna. Murr, nice to meet you and I'm glad that you got to experience the delights of Cranberry Glades firsthand.


Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…