Birding Around Blue Ridge - Spring & Summer
The flute-like songs of Wood Thrushes haunt our hardwood forests in summer, and the calls of Eastern Screech Owls and Whipporwills and Chuck Wills Widows bring mystery to summer nights.
Chimney Swifts and five kinds of swallows scour the air for insects. Bluebirds and Meadowlarks sing from fenceposts and pastures, and a variety of warblers and vireos flit in treetops and hedgerows. Birders willing to greet the dawn will find excellent birding in spring and summer.
Lake Blue Ridge
‘Tween Season birding can be good around Lake Blue Ridge, with lingering Common Loons, Bufflehead Ducks and Horned Grebes. Visit Lake Blue Ridge Marina, Lakewood landing and Morganton Point in April for a glimpse of these northern visitors, who may be waiting for the ice to go out of lakes in the northern US and Canada. April of 2018 delivered a spectacular concentration of over 300 Common Loons on Lake Blue Ridge. Ring-billed Gulls are common on the lake in spring, along with a few Bonaparte’s Gulls, Forster’s Terns and Black Terns in migration
Fannin County Recreation Complex
This 107-acre county park is the place to bird in spring and summer. At first glance, the park seems full of soccer and baseball fields, picnic tables and a fitness trail. It also has tremendous habitat diversity, especially around the edges and along Sugar Creek, and offers good to excellent birding in all seasons. Over 125 species of birds have been seen there since it opened in 2005, and it continues to be the birding hotspot for visitors to Blue Ridge.
This map of Fannin County Park was developed originally for a local bird finding guide and, sadly, is a little out of date. Notably, the road marked CLOSED is open and leads to the Recreation Center which offers basketball, volleyball and pickleball courts and an elevated walking track. Visitors can use the Rec Center facilities for a nominal daily fee.
Fannin County Park is located on Highway 5, about 3 miles north of the McDonald’s corner at Highway 515 (the four-lane). Turn right on Tom Boyd Road, and the birding starts right away. Watch for Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Bluebird and Blue Grosbeak on the roadside wires and fences, and listen for Eastern Towhee, White-eyed Vireo and Common Yellowthroat. Yellow-breasted Chat has been seen occasionally.
In about a mile, turn right at the “T” intersection on Park Drive and proceed slowly, checking the overhead wires for Eastern Meadowlark. Turn right again on the road to the Rec Center and park near the bridge. Pileated Woodpecker, Hooded Warbler, Wood Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Scarlet Tanager can often be found near the bridge. Listen for Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Northern Parula. The spotted touch-me-nots near the creek are attractive to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
Return to park Drive and check out the pond near the park manager’s home (to the right). Spotted Sandpipers are possible and there is a new Wood Duck house on the pond. The trees near the manager’s house often hold Chipping Sparrow, House Finch and Blue Grosbeak.
Park in the main parking lot and walk the elevated trail above and to the left of the big soccer field. Eastern Bluebirds, Killdeer, Common Grackles and Song Sparrows should be on the grass or perched on the soccer goals. Field Sparrows, Eastern Phoebes, Northern Mockingbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds and American Robins are common. Look for Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron and Green heron near the drainage ditches and along the creek. Purple martins, Rough-winged Swallows and Barn Swallows nest, and Tree Swallows are common in the spring.
The elevated trail ends at a fence bordering an agricultural field. The brushy areas often hold Common Yellowthroat, Indigo Bunting, Gray Catbird, Song Sparrow and American Goldfinch. Check the tops of the big Leyland Cypress trees for singing Orchard Orioles. This corner of the park is the best location for Blue Grosbeaks, which often respond to a recording of their song. Please be gentle with song playback, as these birds are on territory and easily irritated. If time permits, wander the paved trails that border Sugar Creek, looking for Northern Cardinal, Eastern Towhee, White-eyed Vireo and Acadian Flycatcher.
Early morning visits to Fannin County Park are the most productive, before the little soccer players begin their activities.
Additional information about birding around Blue Ridge is available at Blue Ridge Bird Seed Company, on East Main Street in downtown Blue Ridge. The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday from noon to 4:00 pm. Contact Lou, Jaime or Tom at 706-258-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Binocs up – let’s go birding!