Trips and Field Trips of 2017


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The mission of the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society is to provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about birds and other wildlife and to promote conservation and restoration of the habitats that support them.

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Field Trips & Programs
Serving Highlands, Cashiers, Franklin
and Scaly Mountain
in Western North Carolina
Serving Highlands, Cashiers, Franklin
and Scaly Mountain
in Western North Carolina
Serving Highlands, Cashiers, Franklin
and Scaly Mountain
in Western North Carolina
Lake Junaluska Winter Birding, Jan. 19, 2017

A small group of HPAS members enjoyed a relatively warm and totally calm morning of birding at Lake Junaluska recently.  While there had been a few changes since our last visit, both were positive:  the lake was full this year (a definite plus) and the feeding area had been moved about a quarter of the way around the lake from its former position.  However, the bridge across the far end of the lake was no open to vehicular traffic, which necessitated some backtracking, but we still covered the shore quite well. 
Canvasback and Redhead Males

An article by William McReynolds
The list of birds:
          pdf. file
Romney Bathurst
*    *    *     *    *
May 6th, was not the most auspicious day to begin our 2017 field trips, to say the least!  4 of us fought the wind and cold (37 at 7:30 – felt like the Christmas Count!) to bird for a while at the Highlands Nature Center and the road up to Sunset Rocks.  We didn’t dare go all the way up due to the winds, and in fact called a halt at 9AM as we realized it might not be safe to be out amongst the sadly dead and swaying hemlocks!  Nonetheless, we had eye-to-eye views of Northern Parula and Hooded Warbler males, all puffed up and almost round due to the cold.  A Blue-headed Vireo was foraging down low out of the wind (as much as possible) and gave great views, while a Black-throated Blue Warbler perched and sang on a power line over our heads.  Also seen were Mourning Dove, a lovely pair of confiding Veerys, American Robin, Canada Geese, Carolina Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Gray Catbird, and lots of Dark-eyed Juncos, of course.  A Golden-crowned Kinglet pair popped within a few feet of us, the male’s flaming orange crest perhaps reminding us that it might be nice to be sitting by a fire! 


May 6th
Romney Bathurst
N. Parula, male

Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Warblers:  Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green, Blackburnian (H), Black and White, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Hooded; Scarlet Tanager (F), Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Towhee, Chipping and Song Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch.

                Be sure to join us next week for a walk in Dixon Park, one of the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust’s holdings.  Jack Johnston, a fine birder and botanist, will be leading – meet at Founders Park in Highlands at 7:30AM.  Loaners binoculars will be available, walking mostly flat.  See you there!

“What a difference a week makes”, to paraphrase a song.  Birders on our walk at Flat Mt. Road this morning enjoyed near perfect birding conditions:  after rain overnight, overcast, upper 50’s, zero wind, leaves not fully out yet.  As a result of that and fine leadership by Jim and Ellen Shelton, all 10 of us enjoyed great looks at such special birds as Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Hairy Woodpecker, and a variety of warblers.  The morning ended with a nice, female Scarlet Tanager!  The total number of species seen was 43, a very good number for Highlands, as follows:

Mallard, Broad-winged Hawk, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied, Downy & Hairy Woodpecker, Red-eyed and Blue Headed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Barn Swallow, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Carolina Wren (H), Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Wood Thrush (H),
May 13th
American Redstart
Romney Bathurst
Be sure to join us next Sat., May 27th, at Cashiers Rec Park, where we will meet to carpool up to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a full morning of spring birding with Drs. Jeremy Hyman and Barbara Ballentine of Western Carolina University.  This will be mostly easy, roadside birding, so be sure to bring your camera, a drink and a sandwich to enjoy at the end of our walk while we are still up on the parkway.  Loaner binoculars are available.  Questions?  Call Romney Bathurst, 526-1939 or email:

Seen and/or heard today:
Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, Wood Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Ovenbird, Hooded Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Towhee, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, House Finch, American Goldfinch.

Our walk today provided a wealth of information about both birds and botany, thanks to the expert leadership of Jack Johnston.  We saw and/or heard 22 birds at Dixon Park, off Bowery Rd. in Highlands.  Thanks to the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, this lovely property is being conserved for the likes of Downy Woodpeckers, Brown Thrashers, Blue-headed Vireos, and several of our neo-tropical migrant wood warblers.  Jack also answered questions ranging from Oconee Bells to moss and how to grow it, while explaining the importance of dead snags and pointing out the many native plants and trees that are attractive to birds.

May 20th
American Goldfinch
Oconee Bells
Romney Bathurst
May 27th
Bird List pdf. file
Rose-beasted Grosbeak
Birding with Professors Jeremy Hyman & Barbara Ballentine of WCU
                                    on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Seventeen HPAS members and friends met at 7 AM in Cashiers, queued up in five cars and caravanned to the Blue Ridge Parkway on May 27. They could not have ordered a more beautiful morning: little wind, temperatures in the mid-60s and a full canopy of Carolina blue sky. In the lead were Drs. Barbara Ballentine and Jeremy Hyman of Western Carolina University with Romney Bathurst assisting.
Roadside stops along the Ridge included: the Steestachee Bald Overlook where Cedar Waxwings, Indigo Bunting and Rose-breasted Grosbeak were sighted; the Licklog Ridge Outlook where Canadian Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Red-tailed Hawk were seen; Richland Balsam Overlook at 6053 feet where the Black-capped Chickadee and Black-throated Green Warbler appeared; and Haywood-Jackson Overlook which brought the Golden-crowned Kinglet and Black-throated Green Warbler. Chestnut-sided Warblers were seen or heard at every stop.  In all, 43 avian species were seen and/or heard. The complete list appears on the pdf. file below.
The group enjoyed lunch at the Devil's Courthouse before heading back.

William McReynolds and Romney Bathurst

Photos by William McReynolds
Canada Warbler photos taken by Tim Carstens on the Blue Ridge Parkway:
The June 4 bird walk around the Cashier’s Common area started out with a bang, before we even got to the boardwalk trail, when a flock of common grackles mobbed, almost seemed to smother, a red-shouldered hawk that just flown from its perch in a tree nearby; quite a dramatic way to start the day.  From then on it seemed as if it must have been ‘baby-bird day' on the Cashiers Commons.  We saw a brown thrasher that must have come off the nest the same morning; essentially no tail at all and a bill that was only half what it should soon become.  The bluebirds, house wrens, and tree swallows were all feeding young in various HPAS bird boxes around the library and recreation center.  A robin was found still incubating eggs in a nest plastered up against one the library’s windows (hopefully for the benefit of the library patrons too), and another robin family was feeding speckled young on the lawn near the pavilion which the night before had been the site for a music concert.  The mourning doves were busy displaying for one another with their flap-flap-flap, glide-glide-glide flight displays.  We had very good looks at a flicker, goldfinches, song sparrows, a male ruby-throated hummingbird, and cat birds.  We had a brief but good look at a northern parula who was pummeling a large caterpillar, and an even shorter view of a red-eyed vireo.  Although we missed out on some easily anticipated birds for this area (e.g., mockingbird, chickadee, blue jay, chimney swift) we did log in turkey vulture, lots of barn swallows (with one vacated nest on the back wall of the library), European starlings, house finches, and eastern towhees, for a respectable total of 21 species for the morning.  The many young birds and attentive parents provided good subject matter for photographer and birder, Linell Goodall.  Although a walk around the Cashier’s Commons is far from a ‘wilderness experience’, once again this area proved to be a pleasant, successful venue for being able to carefully observe several interesting bird species and their behaviors.  The readily accessible area will be the site for another outing, co-sponsored by HPAS and Mountain Wildlife Days, the morning of July 14 (8:00 AM).

June 3rd
Photos by Linell Goodall
Panthertown Valley, on a fresh, sunny morning in early June, could not get much better than it was on this Saturday’s walk!

Birding and botanizing as we hiked down into the lush, green valley brought some fine birds and lovely wildflowers, with Mountain Laurel and Flame Azaleas, Firepinks and more in bloom – and we had it virtually all to ourselves!  Brent Martin, of Alarka Expeditions ( did an excellent job of leading our small group, and the following birds were heard and/or seen:

Canada Goose (with young), Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Downy and Pileated Woodpecker, Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireo, American Crow, Barn and Tree Swallow, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Red- and White-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Towhee, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, American Goldfinch.

Be sure to join Brock Hutchins for our walk on Sat., June 17th, on Turtle Pond Rd. and Jones Gap.  Meet at Founders Park (near the restrooms) in Highlands at 7:30.  Questions?  Call Romney Bathurst at 526-1939 or Brock Hutchins at 404-295-0663.  Bring your camera for some fine views from Jones Gap, water and bins (loaner bins will be available too).  Stout walking shoes or hiking boots are recommended.

Tree Swallow
June 10th
Scarlet Tanager
Romney Bathurst
This week’s walk to Jones Gap featured several great looks at singing Scarlet Tanagers, always a favorite!  A White-eyed Vireo, seldom seen in our area, was observed feeding young on Turtle Pond Road.  A large group of Northern Rough-winged Swallows sat on the telephone lines on the same road, also feeding young.  Many Ovenbirds were also encountered.  Brock Hutchins led a group of 5 and totaled 36 species seen and/or heard, another successful outing on a gorgeous morning!

Rich Gap Road has long been a fine one for birding, and today was no exception!  While the number of species wasn’t high, the quality was definitely there, in “oh wow!” views of at least 4 warblers and a singing male Scarlet Tanager plus Indigo Bunting.  Things are definitely slowing down now, as most birds have nested and some have already fledged their young, but there are still Barn Swallows feeding young and we also saw an Overbird carrying food as well, as sure sign that is had young in its nest on the ground.  Thanks to all who participated for making this such a fun morning!

Bird list:  Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Red-eyed Vireo, American Crow, N. Rough-winged and Barn Swallows, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Wood Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warblers, Ovenbird, Hooded Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting,
Eastern Towhee, Song Sparrow,  Dark-eyed Junco

Tree Swallow
June 17th
Golden-crowned Kinglet
June 24th
Romney Bathurst
Romney Bathurst
Indigo Bunting