Warm days and cool nights, an abundance of wildflowers, a chorus of spring bird song, and spectacular mountain scenery: This is spring in the Southern Blue Ridge.
Our base in the attractive city of Asheville, North Carolina, offers us world-class cuisine, a fine selection of breweries and a very walkable, attractive downtown with museums, galleries and quirky coffee shops adding to its eclectic appeal.
Surrounded by thousands of acres of national forest, Asheville offers some fine spring birding. Over 20 species of warblers nest in the area and every day sees more and more migrants arriving from their wintering grounds in the tropics. Wood thrush, veery and hermit thrush sing from the mountain forests, and the feel can be decidedly northern as the Blue Ridge climbs to almost 7,000 feet within an hour of Asheville.
We have partnered with Ventures Birding to bring you our first Rendezvous to North Carolina! Simon Thompson will be our Ventures Birding guide while Kelly Ball (advertising director) and Wendy Clark (publisher) will be guiding/staffing from BWD.
Thursday, April 22 (Day 1): Arrival Day
Please plan to check in to the Fairfield Inn on Tunnel Road (near downtown) by lunchtime. Your lodging is included in the price of this Rendezvous. The afternoon will be free to explore Asheville using one of the free shuttles from the hotel. Surrounded by lush plantings and overshadowed by Asheville City Hall and County Courthouse, Pack Square was set out in 1896 and is a focal point for many activities in the city. We will have dinner nearby – maybe at Pack’s Tavern before returning to our hotel for Rendezvous introductions and an evening presentation on Birds of the Blue Ridge.
Friday, April 23: Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway snakes from The Great Smoky Mountains north into Virginia and it’s a short van ride before we are surrounded by the forests of the Southern Appalachians. After breakfast at the hotel we will drive into the Blue Ridge and depending on the weather we will slowly drive north towards Mt. Mitchell birding as we go. Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and many other spring migrants will be back and setting up their territories along the Parkway. We will pause for a picnic lunch featuring many locally-sourced foods before continuing birding along the Blue Ridge. Once we return to Asheville we will change gears and board the Purple Bus in the late afternoon/evening for an Asheville city and beer tour. Dinner will be at the Grove Park Inn, one of Asheville’s fine restaurants.
Saturday, April 24: Jackson Park
One of the finest migration hotspots in Western North Carolina has to be Jackson Park in nearby Hendersonville. Virtually every Eastern warbler has been there and the bird list is currently at 213 species. The wide range of habitats such as wetlands, marshes, deciduous woodlands and brushy edges and a maze of easy walking trails make for some excellent birding in the spring. Lunch will again be a picnic in the open fields of Henderson County for open country birds such as Willow Flycatcher, Blue Grosbeak and maybe some transient shorebirds. Dinner will be at one of our local breweries, which have put the Asheville area firmly on the map in beer circles.
Sunday, April 25: Biltmore Estate
No visit to Asheville would be complete without a visit to the Biltmore Estate. Opened in 1895 and at 175,000 square feet (probably the largest private home in North America), we will spend the morning birding the extensive grounds of the estate. The lagoons hold Wood Duck and Baltimore Orioles, while Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks hunt over the fields. We will have a buffet lunch at the Deer Park Restaurant including a wine tasting from the estate. We will also take a brief tour inside the Biltmore Estate! You may choose to maximize your tour with pre-recorded headsets as well.
In the afternoon, we will hit some other local birding hotpots such as Lake Julian for water birds, and Westfeldt Park for spring migrants before returning to our hotel. Dinner will be catered at our hotel before we have an evening program on the Warblers of Western North Carolina.
Monday, April 26 (Day 5): Departure Day
After breakfast at the hotel, we will spend a couple of hours at the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society’s Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary for a lovely walk along the boardwalks. The willows and Tulip trees attract Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos and many other species. We will enjoy this natural gem of North Asheville before pausing for refreshments and leaving around lunchtime with memories of our weekend in Western North Carolina.
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