Wednesday, May 1, 2019

New River Birding & Nature Festival

Cathedral Falls, Glen Ferris, West Virginia. The waters of Cane Branch tumble 60 feet over a series of cascades, and soon merge with the New River.

As for the past 14 or 15 years, I'm down here in Fayetteville, West Virginia for the New River Birding & Nature Festival. We have a great time, and are dazzled with a stunning array of flora and fauna. The New River and local Appalachian mountains harbor some of eastern North America's richest biodiversity. Field trips are the bread and butter of the event, and organizers Rachel Davis, Keith Richardson, Geoff Heeter and Paul Shaw bring in some of the best guides in the industry (present company possibly excluded).

This gorgeous little bird, clad in ocher earth tones, is one of the area's most coveted species. It is a Swainson's warbler, one of the rarest of our warblers. It occupies visually stunning habitats: mountain streams hemmed in by dense great rhododendron thickets overlain with hemlock and birch overstory. The bird's piercing whistled song slices through the dense vegetation and reveals their presence.

I photographed this animal on our trip today. It was one of 19 species of warblers, which were among the 73 species that we found on this excursion. A personal highlight was the nest of a least flycatcher. The birds, at least the female, was busily constructing it. She had placed the nest right in the fork of a red maple, by the trunk and about 25 feet off the ground. Unless you saw her fly in to it, as sharp-eyed Alma Lowery did, you'd not spot the nest in a million years so well did it blend with the tree.

The festival takes place every spring in late April/early May. If you like birds and nature, you'd love this event. CLICK HERE for the details.

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