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New River Birding & Nature Festival

Although it's now a few weeks past, I want to make one more pictorial post about the New River Birding & Nature Festival. I've been traveling down to lead trips and otherwise help out with this event for seven or eight years now, and it is an annual highlight. The festival is centered on the mighty New River, near the town of Fayetteville, West Virginia. This area is one of the most scenic places in North America. It is also a treasure trove of biodiversity, including "special" birds such as Cerulean Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Swainson's Warbler, and a bit to the south and high in the mountains, breeding Red Crossbills.
The boys - and girl - haven't yet posted the dates of next year's festival, but it'll be at the tail end of April, into early May. Check their website HERE. You'll get a flavor for the event, along with some photos. We'd love to see you there in 2014!
The mill at Babcock State Park is picturesque indeed. Not only that, but there's good birding, butterflying, and overall naturalizing in this very spot. Black-throated Blue Warblers breed in the dense tangles of Great Rhododendron on the adjacent slopes, and Swainson's Warblers nest downstream. One of your narrator's very favorite spiders, the outrageous Lampshade Weaver, builds its webs on sandstone outcrops along the stream.

Moths abound, and participants are dazzled by what comes into the nightlights at what may now be West Virginia's most photographed and studied outhouse. Luckily for us, this outhouse is at our morning rendezvous spot for field trips. I think there was a Luna there almost every morning this year.

We were excited to find this jumbo Promethea Moth on the walls of the outhouse one morning. It is a gravid female, and with luck she'll dump all of those eggs and a few will make it through the perilous caterpillar stage and complete the life cycle.

This is the Promethea's cocoon, a curious pendant bag that is reminiscent of a Baltimore Oriole nest. We found this one at Cranberry Glades, and admired it while being serenaded by Winter Wren, Canada and Magnolia warblers, Blue-headed Vireo, and more.

I was co-leading this trip to Cotton Hill on a fine sunny morning. We stopped here because there were all manner of birds in this spot. Northern Parula and Yellow-throated Warbler sang from towering Sycamore trees. Baltimore Orioles issued their flutelike whistles, and another whistler, the Eastern Meadowlark was teed up close at hand. But this action was just a warmup act for the mountain ahead, which abounds with Cerulean Warblers.

One of the festival's founders and a Chief Cook and Bottlewasher is this stylishly risque fashionplate, Geoffrey Heeter. Geoff allowed us to relish the birds of the locale in the previous photo a bit longer than we had planned. To his credit, he conjured this locksmith in no time flat to extract the keys from the innards of Geoff's vehicle. The dog certainly appreciated the business.

Of course, the plants are not to be snubbed, at least on my trips, and we see some doozies. This is one of them, the Little Brown Jugs, Hexastylis virginica. That's its strange flower, in full bloom, flat on the ground in the center of the leaves.

The progression of spring varies a bit from year to year. Last year, it came early and this year spring was tardy. This trio of Pink Lady's-slippers, Cypripedium acaule, was in bud and just about ready to burst. We see several other species of cool orchids, but probably none of them tops this one for sheer wow factor. If you come next year, the pinks will likely be in bloom, and the rocky ledges where I took this photo harbor dozens of plants.

Check out the New River Birding & Nature Festival, and see if you can make it in 2014.


Tricia said…
We had a Promethea moth in our backyard in Clintonville a few years ago. It was a treat.

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