Birding at Grayson Highlands State Park

Birding with campers at Grayson Highlands State Park 6/29/13 Julie Slater, intern at GHSP, and Blue Ridge Discovery Center have joined forces for a series of on-site programs this summer and fall. (See previous blogs regarding the currency of this association through BRDC’s Fish Bugs program.) Our choice of study for this program was Sullivan Swamp (defined as an Appalachian shrub bog), with a strong focus on birds. However, we took along the data sheet created through Devin Floyd’s 2012 BRDC SiteSection survey as a handy back-up.

Julie had done the preliminary work of rounding up some eager campers, giving us 4 adults and 4 young children. This was a good crowd, really just the perfect size for spending a couple of hours in a sensitive ecosystem. One of the parents was a botanist, who works with the Shenandoah National Park…an added perk.

Eric Harrold, through Avian Adventures, led the walk. As seen in the photos, we had some very young kids, but they were up for crawling through the twisted rhododendrons, squishing through deep dark mud, and rock hopping. Our determined aim was to find alder flycatcher and saw-whet owl, neither of which gave us the pleasure. But we had plenty of entertainment in the reliable chestnut-sided warbler, common yellowthroat, cedar waxwing, Eastern towhee, spittle bug, silky willow, cinnamon fern, sphagnum moss and just the pleasure of spending some time in an exotic landscape. What always becomes obvious is that kids love the adventure of discovery. Given that all four parents were in tune with this need and desire, we took our time as magnifying glasses, tactile moments, and questions became part of our collective experience.

For those who would like to study a bit more on the definition of bog versus swamp, start here:

Scott Jackson-Ricketts