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New River Birding & Nature Festival

Well, we've ushered out 2011 and successfully managed the arrival of 2012. A new year means new opportunities, and it's time to start planning one's calendar. With that in mind, I will periodically present bulletins about some bona fide fun and educational events.

One of the very best festivals out there is the New River Birding & Nature Festival, based in scenic Fayetteville, West Virginia. I've been down for this one for about seven years now - leading trips and speaking - and it's a legitimate blast. This year's dates are April 30 - May 5. Come for some, or all. It's the festival's 10th anniversary, and the organizers have pulled out all the stops.

And now, for a tiny pictorial peek into a little sliver of what we can expect...

The spectacular New River bridge, the dominant manmade feature of this region. It passes over the New River, some 900 feet up. For those bold enough, one of this year's offerings is a "bridge walk" - on narrow catwalks under the bridge deck! You'll get up close and personal with the resident Peregrine Falcons, and probably some Rock Pigeons, too.

A group scopes out an unusually cooperative, teed up Great Crested Flycatcher at Hawk's Nest State Park. We hadn't even made it out of the parking lot at this point, but once we did, many more excellent sightings were made. An incredible cast of guides - and I'm not saying I'm one of 'em! - are deployed at New River, and they know where all the goodies are. You can expect to see a LOT of different species. CLICK HERE for the New River cast of guiding characters.

A cooperative male Canada Warbler investigates one of my groups. I pretty much know this guy. He comes out, with no prompting, each year to have a gander at us. We'll see many other species of warblers, and get looks like this at most of them.

A crowd favorite and major target is the Swainson's Warbler. We'll get 'em. They breed along picturesque streams buffered by tangles of great rhododendron and overshadowed by towering hemlock.

Mist-cloaked mountains form the backdrop to Cranberry Glades Botanical Area. Occasionally, a black bear comes shuffling down that boardwalk. The birding at this high-elevation locale is beyond incredible.

The corrugated leaves of green hellebore, Veratrum viride, punctuate the swampy woods at Cranberry Glades. Nearly all of the boreal breeding songbirds nest here, near the southern limits of their ranges in these high Appalachian mountains. Winter Wren, Blackburnian Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch and many more. There are even resident Red Crossbills!

If the Dark-eyed Juncos have departed your feeders by the time of the New River festival, you'll renew contact with them at Cranberry Glades. These slaty little sparrows nest there commonly.

They do have indoor plumbing in West Virginia, and that goes for any of the places that you might be staying. But there are outhouses, too, and this one has become famous. It's at Burnwood State Park, where we eat breakfast and stage field trips each morning. They leave the lights on, and by morning blizzards of interesting moths have gathered. Word has it that this is where the incredible Luna-Hawk was discovered. As a special treat, moth expert Seabrooke Leckie will be part of this year's festival. She illustrated the brand spanking new Peterson Field Guide to Moths. I'm sure she'll have a ball at this outhouse.

While birds are always prioritized - they can fly away, after all! - we don't shun the flora. This beauty is a painted trillium, Trillium undulatum. Even the nonplantpeople often find themselves becoming smitten with all of the sensational plants that brighten the spring West Virginia woods.

Your blogger helps to form a human chain around one of West Virginia's largest plants, the state champion tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera. For those who make the Muddlety field trip, stopping to pay homage to this sylvan giant is a must.

Bright, shiny, and gimlet-eyed, this brilliant orange red eft ventures out on a damp day. We'll see these fascinating amphibians, and probably lots of them. Efts, as strongly suggested by their day-glo coloration, are highly toxic. Don't eat any.

The Mountaineer State's namesake butterfly, the West Virginia white. We'll see butterflies galore, including more showy pipevine swallowtails than you've probably ever seen before.

The New River Birding & Nature Festival is all about seeing lots of birds, other critters, and plants, all while having a great time. This group is celebrating some great find, maybe a Cerulean Warbler. Speaking of which, Katie Fallon, author of the newly released book Cerulean Blues, will also be with us. The surprises just never end!

To cap it all off, the Rain Crows will be performing, hot on the heels of their brand new CD which will debut in March. Some of you may know band members Bill Thompson and Julie Zickefoose, who will do double duty as guides and speakers. Far left is Wendy Eller, and in the back beating on the bass is Craig Gibbs.

You just don't want to miss this shindig. All of the New River Birding & Nature Festival details are RIGHT HERE. Hope to see you down in the mountains this spring!


Auralee said…
Though you make this sound so tempting, I tend to shy away from festivals because I like it better when the birds outnumber the people. Not that birders aren't great people, but that's just my preference. For example, we've been planning our trip to Lake Erie the weekend *after* IMBD. This year, I'm thinking of going to Shawnee State Park (Forest?)instead, because you have raved about it many times. Would you be willing to do a "May birding at Shawnee" post sometime before then? To tell us what to look for and where? (Or even good places to stay, eat, etc.)

Love your posts. Thanks so much!
Nomadic Birder said…
Every year I tell myself I will make it to the festival but don't - this year I won't let that happen. See you there!
Jim McCormac said…
Ethan, that would be awesome if you can make it! You'll have a blast. We see scads of cool stuff, and not just birds. Although in regard to the latter, Auralee, I can guarantee that the birds greatly outnumber the birders :-)
Rick said…
Heard your info on snowy owls on All Things Considered on WOUB,very good. Off the subject,pbs has great stuff,listen everyday.
Heather said…
Auralee, I can vouch for Jim's statement about the birds outnumbering the people at this festival. Registration is limited, and groups usually number 20 birders or less. I have avoided Magee during the "rush" for the same reason you mentioned. New River is intimate and wonderful. Not to mention that the birds and field trips are amazing!!

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