Warren Wilson College and Charles D. Owen Park in Swannanoa are must-stops for any birder visiting the WNC region, especially in the fall. Collectively encompassing an area of over 300 acres of agricultural fields and riparian woodland along the Swannanoa River, the adjacent properties provide excellent habitat for a mix of transient and overwintering species. With over 212 species recorded here year-round, its surely one of the premier birding hotspots, not only in Buncombe County, but all of WNC!
While many of the warblers and other neotropical migrants will have already passed through at this time, late October is the perfect time to be on the lookout for sparrows. White-crowned, White-throated, Swamp, and Savannah will have just recently arrived for the winter while uncommon migrants like Vesper and Lincoln’s Sparrows will be passing through. Dark-eyed Junco plus Fox and Grasshopper Sparrows are occasionally seen, while others such as Song, Field, Chipping and Eastern Towee (our largest sparrow) are expected. As the name of this trip suggests, we will focus on scanning the brushy edges, overgrown ditches, and open fields for as many sparrows as possible and will try to get good looks at each one we find! There’s always the chance for a rare sparrow here as well, with Nelson’s, Henslow’s, Lark, and American Tree Sparrows all showing up in past years.
While sparrows will be our main quarry today, we won’t ignore any of the other birds we stumble upon. Bobolink, Wilson’s Snipe, American Pipit, plus straggling Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak are all possibilities, and we should find a good number of raptors hunting the fields or migrating along the river. Ducks will also be starting to arrive, and we could find Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, or Green-winged Teal on the ponds at Owen Park. To add to the excitement, the area has been a magnet for rarities over the last few years such as Dickcissel, Sedge & Marsh Wrens, and Baird’s Sandpiper.
Join us for this Sparrow Shindig and celebrate the diversity of sparrows!