Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Flock to Chimney Rock for Western North Carolina's Premier Fall Migration Birding Event

Photo Courtesy of Chimney Rock State Park
This is a great weekend to visit Chimney Rock State Park located in Hickory Nut Gorge at Hwy. 64/74A in Chimney Rock, Western North Carolina. Birds and bird lovers alike Flock to the Rock this weekend for the 4th annual fall migration birding event held every September.

Birding Background at Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock is an official site on the North Carolina Birding Trail, and it's easy to see why. From its banks to its cliffs, Chimney Rock is a sanctuary for North Carolina's resident birds as well as migrating birds. Summer-breeding birds such as Scarlet Tanagers, warblers and vireos are attracted to the deciduous forests on the north and east facing slopes of Chimney Rock. Cerulean Warblers can be spotted in the tall trees right below the parking lot. Swainson's Warblers can be seen in the rhododendron thickets, particularly right along the Hickory Nut Falls trail.

Peregrine Falcons (Falco Peregrinus) have recently returned to Chimney Rock. By the early 1960s, none of these magnificent birds were found in the area. Thanks to captive-breeding programs, they have made a comeback. In 1990, three young birds fledged from the high cliffs of Chimney Rock and since then have been sighted almost every year. Bring your binoculars and set your sights on the cliff walls and up to the surrounding sky for the chance to see these masterful birds in action above the gorge. They can slice through the air at speeds of 60mph and greater. When they swoop on smaller birds in flight, they have a diving speed of 200mph!

Chimney Rock is home to more than 130 species of birds throughout the year. In addition to the tanagers, warblers and vireos we've already mentioned, there are woodpeckers, thrushes, owls, falcons, and other birds of prey. The Flock to the Rock birding weekend coincides with the annual hawk migration. Be prepared to see dozens, if not hundreds, of hawks flying over the park on their way south.

Flock to the Rock Events & Activities
Now that you know a little bit of the background on the park's feathered friends, let's get back to the Flock to the Rock event held this weekend Saturday, September 29 from 10a.m.-2p.m. and Sunday, September 30 from 9a.m. to 2p.m. The good news is that once you pay the regular park admission (adults $15, youth ages 6-15 are $7, under age 6 are free) the birding events are all free.

There is so much to see and do at Flock to the Rock, but we have limited time and space here. So, here's a quick overview of what you can expect to find:
  • Live Birds of Prey programs with a Red-tailed Hawk and Great Horned Owl.
  • Bird walks guided by local expert ornithologists.
  • Workshops ranging from bird photography to hummingbird care and feeding.
  • Hawk watches.
  • Family nature walks.
  • Kid activities such as dissecting owl pellets (to see what these birds of prey eat, not just to gross you out).
A full listing of Flock to the Rock activities and times can be found here. It is definitely worth checking out and making the trip to Chimney Rock State Park this weekend if you can!

No matter when you're able to make the trip to Western NC, be sure to leave room in your itinerary for this state park. You won't be disappointed! If you are interested in bird-watching while here, it might also be helpful to download and print the latest version of "Your Guide to Birding at Chimney Rock" edited by Simon Thompson to take with you on out on the trails.

Where to Stay in Western NC
Apple Hill Hideaway
Don't forget to make the most of your trip by staying locally in a mountain cabin near to the attractions you plan to visit. Apple Hill Hideaway (pictured at left) is not far from the state park. Chimney Rock State Park is pet-friendly, so take a look at the pet-friendly accommodations in Western NC that we have to offer.

Have you been to Chimney Rock State Park? Have you hiked the stairs or taken the elevator up to the top to see the fabulous views? Tell us about your adventures at Chimney Rock State Park in our comment section. You know we would love to hear from you. Happy birding!

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