Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Jewels of the North Carolina Mountains: Birds and Waterfalls -- Day 5 -- June 14

180 Degree view from Sam Knob -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 10, 2013 -- Photo by Carl Miller
             This post continues the travelogue from my and Carl's North Carolina mountain vacation in June.  If this is your first visit and you are interested in the first 4 days of our birding and photographic adventures from this vacation, I invite you to click on previous posts in the Blog Archive in the right hand column below.

             Carl and I decided that we needed a day for photographing waterfalls and we wanted ones that would be new to us.  This meant we would need to go a little further afield.  Using some resources found in the cabin, Carl researched our options and found 2 "must-see" falls just off the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) -- north of Mount Mitchell.  We began our trek very early in order to catch the first rays of light along the Blue Ridge parkway.

Morning rays on the Blue Ridge -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

           Our first waterfall destination -- Crabtree Falls -- required a hike along a 2.5 mile loop trail.  Bonus for the birders:  It is also one of 105 recommended birding sites in the North Carolina Birding Trail -- Mountain Trail Guide!  We arrived in the parking lot (BRP milepost 339.5) first before any other visitors.  Carl rushed down the trail as he wanted time to photograph the falls before others showed up and put themselves in his picture.  I, on the other hand, took my time.  This was indeed a very birdy trail and I was enjoying the birds and practicing my birding by ear skills.  The meadow area was full of Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinals, and Eastern Towhees such as the one below.

Eastern Towhee -- Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

         As I entered the woods, I began to hear Carolina Wrens, Black-Throated Green Warblers, Wood Thrush, Veery and Eastern Wood-Pewees.  I also heard and caught a glimpse, through the treetops, of a Broad-Winged Hawk.  As I continued to descend down the trail through the thick rhododendrons, I heard in one switchback after another the song of several Black-Throated Blue Warbler -- one of my favorite warblers!  It is not difficult to imitate their song and thus, as I phished, a couple of different birds, came over the check me out.

Black-throated Blue Warbler -- Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

         At the end of the day, I estimated, because I lost count, a very low 12 Black-throated Blue Warblers on that trail.   I probably heard more.  I also heard,  but could never phish them out into view, several Canada Warblers.

           Carl did well to hurry down the trail.  As I was taking my time to bird during my descent, a couple of different parties passed me.  Once I arrived, Carl had already finished, for the most part, photographing this gorgeous fall.  None of the other visitors had lingered.  Though a few more came, no one was adventurous enough to climb on the rocks in front of me.   Thus, I had a clear shot of the falls AND use of Carl's very wide-angle (10 - 24 mm) lens.

Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013
 
I like to photograph waterfalls in 2 ways.  First, I like taking the more realistic shot of freezing the water in place with a faster shutter speed, such as in the photo above.  Then, I like to go for the more artsy shot, using a very slow shutter speed to smooth out the flow of water. Since you cannot handhold such a shot, you have to be willing to hike with your tripod. 

Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

Sometimes, it is enough just to capture a part of the fall.

Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013
         
Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

         Do you see the little plant clinging to the mossy rock on the right?  The day before, in Cataloochee, Carl had tried to find a plant hanging over a rushing stream.  His goal was to photograph such a small plant with water rushing behind it.  Though this plant was not particularly pretty, I decided to attempt the same type of photo with this plant.

Plant with a view --Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

          What a spectacular fall!  But we had another fall to visit and and so we needed to hike back up the trail.  Continuing along this loop trail, we crossed the bridge over Crabtree Creek and climbed the steep stairs and trail.  This was the most challenging part of the hike but it quickly put us close to the top of the ridge and then the trail leveled out and became rather easy.  Having moved away from the roar of the falls, we could again hear the birds singing.  A thrush crossed our path but was too quick to be identified.  The next bird was this Hooded Warbler whose nest must have been close by.

Hooded Warbler -- Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

Hooded Warbler -- Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

           Once again, the Black-throated Blue Warblers predominated.  We could hear three males at a time, singing to defend their territories!

Black-Throated Blue Warbler -- Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

       A female Eastern Towhee searched for food in the leaf litter and largely ignored our attempts to photograph her -- how uncooperative.  I suppose that when you have children to feed, there is no pausing for the tourists.  This Dark-Eyed Junco kept her eyes on us.  We must have been very close to her well-hidden chicks and/or nest.

Dark-Eyed Junco -- Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

A feisty pair of Blue-Headed Vireos made it clear that they did not like our phishing.  Why couldn't we be like all the other tourists and just go down the path without pausing to make noise?   We quickly snapped a few pictures and then left them in peace to tend to the children.


Blue-Headed Vireo --Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

The little Hooded Warbler did pause a moment to pose for her photo op before calmly continuing to forage among the leaves.

Hooded Warbler -- Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

Finally, this Eastern Phoebe also paused for a moment on the roof of the amphitheater in the campground with a beak full of seed.  I believe she was trying to locate her children.

Eastern Phoebe -- Crabtree Falls -- Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

          The authors of The North Carolina Birding Trail -- Mountain Trail Guide chose quite well to include Crabtree (Meadow) Falls in the guide.  It is one of the birdiest trails that I have ever hiked!  I look forward to hiking and birding it again.

         It was now mid-day and Carl and I still had another waterfall to visit -- the Roaring Fork Waterfall.  Thankfully, we needed not drive far -- back south down the BRP and then west on Hwy 80 for 2-3 miles.  Detailed directions can be found in the above link.

         At one-half mile, our hike into this waterfall did not take long at all.  We certainly heard many of the same birds again -- Eastern Towhees, Black-Throated Green Warblers, Hooded Warblers and Black-throated Blue Warblers.  Time was running short so we did not pause much to attempt to put our eyes on the birds.  We arrived at the falls just as a family was packing up to leave so we again had this fall to ourselves for a while.  It had been described in one of the waterfall books as one of the best waterfalls in North Carolina.  It certainly is delightfully pitturesque!

Roaring Fork Falls -- North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

Roaring Fork Falls -- North Carolina -- June 14, 2013


Carl shooting the falls -- Roaring Fork Falls -- June 14, 2013

       We had finished shooting the fall when another family came.  This was a local family whose children regularly play in the falls.  What a great place to grow up!
         
Roaring Fork Falls -- North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

          On our return trip to the car, we saw some bird activity in the woods -- it was an Eastern Towhee family.  I managed to capture this photo of a youngster!

Eastern Towhee fledgling -- close to Roaring Fork Falls, North Carolina -- June 14, 2013

          Another day in heaven!  The Jewels of the North Carolina Mountains do not disappoint --  ever.  Carl and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring these falls and birding along the way.  With just one more day for hiking, birding, photography and general sightseeing, what would we choose next?  Stay tuned -- I am editing those photos now for the last post in this series!


1 comment:

  1. LOVE your waterfall pics!

    ReplyDelete