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New River Birding & Nature Festival

Our group poses high on the rim of the New River gorge in West Virginia - one of the most scenic regions in eastern North America and a global biological hotspot. I've been down here since Sunday, leading trips for the New River Birding & Nature Festival. My blogging may be a bit spotty, as we hook up our groups at 6 am, and are out canvassing fascinating habitats all day long.

This is the vista that the group above was enjoying this afternoon, and scenery such as this is commonplace down here along the New River. We hammer the birds particularly hard when out and about, and our group ended up with 84 species today, headlined by Golden-winged Warbler. Interesting birds abound, including Swainson's Warbler, which we heard singing from a Rhododendron "Hell"; a snarl of great rhododendrons so thick that even one of the local black bears would get stuck in there.

Other trips go to easier spots to see the Swainson's Warbler, and most festival attendees do. But there are great birds and birding around every bend.

We don't totally ignore other fauna, and certainly not the flora. The highlands in this part of West Virginia harbor all manner of botanical goodies including painted trilliums, such as above.

An especially showy cluster of pink lady's-slipper orchids elicited plenty of reaction from our crowd, and many photos were made of these plants. The guides at this festival know all of the nooks and crannies where interesting things grow, sing, slither, fly, or sting, and you can bet you'll see tons of birds, but lots of other stuff. In addition to oodles of birds and odd plants, we observed mountain dusky salamanders, cherry-scented millipedes, the utterly bizarre lampshade weaver spider, and much more.

And that was just one trip, today. Tomorrow I'll be part of a special Cerulean Warbler expedition, and then off to the legendary Cranberry Glades Botanical Area the following two days. Many more interesting finds will be made, and I'll slap some of them on here as time permits.


Heather said…
Glad to see Heeter's still wearing his Captain and Tenille hat!

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