For the past week I've been leading birding trips in south-central West Virginia for the New River Birding Festival. This event is a lock on my travel calendar every year because it's like going to bird watching camp--most of us stay in cabins where the wood thrushes sing us to sleep at night and wake us in the morning.
The 100 or so attendees come for multiple days, so we see each other repeatedly--on field trips, at the morning rallying point, at the evening meal and banquet--and get to know each other better. And many folks, like us, come to the New River Birding Festival every year. It could be the birds, but I think it's more likely the laid-back atmosphere for birding and getting to see fellow bird-watching pals that's the real attraction.
The field-birding focus is on warblers and this part of the world is like Warblerville, USA. I led two golden-winged warbler trips in the past two days. The first day we got 17 warblers (but no GWWA). The next day (yesterday) we found about12 golden-wingeds, plus 19 other warblers. I'm pretty sure they might have just come in overnight.
On yesterday's successful GWWA trip the warblers we had were: golden-winged, n. parula, yellow, chestnut-sided, black-throated blue, black-throated green, yellow-rumped, Blackburnian, prairie, black-and-white, American redstart, worm-eating, ovenbird, Louisiana waterthrush, Kentucky, mourning (heard only), common yellowthroat, hooded warbler, Canada, and yellow-breasted chat.
The event is not without its trials and tribulations: On Friday's trip one of the vehicles had a flat tire which I changed. On Saturday's trip, the borrowed SUV I was driving (with four other passengers) got locked somehow with everything, including the keys, inside. Many cell phone calls and two hours later, the vehicle's owner (the kind, lovely, and patient Lynn Pollard) came with a spare set of keys. The "send-the-unlock-signal-over-a-cellphone" did not work.
If you love watching warblers, consider coming to the New River Birding Festival in 2008. It usually starts on the last Sunday of April and runs for a week. After all, there aren't THAT many places where you can get 20+ species of warblers in one day while seeing breathtaking mountain scenery like we've enjoyed here on the edge of the New River gorge.