Saturday, May 1, 2010

New River "Lite"

Like most of us these days, I bird on a budget. Between arranging time off work and financial considerations, I can only make one major out-of-state birding trip a year, plus a few short local excursions in Ohio. When I decided to attend the "Potholes and Prairies" event in North Dakota in June, I knew that meant I wouldn't be able to do the New River Birding and Nature Festival this year.

The New River is a premier birding trip. Great food, wonderful people, and of course, fabulous birds and nature make central West Virginia a very special place to be in late April/early May. I was sorry to have to miss it in 2010, especially after the terrific time I had in '09.

Then, Mom asked me to accompany her on an Exploritas (formerly Elderhostel) trip to West Virginia. Originally, we were scheduled for a program last October, planned around Bridge Day, the local celebration of the New River Gorge Bridge. That trip was canceled due to lack of interest, but Mom suggested we sign up for the April trip instead. The bonus? It was about birds, and would
be held at Hawks Nest State Park, in Ansted, in my favorite part of West Virgina.Staying any place in the mountains means steps. Lots and lots of steps. Sometimes, we had to go down the stairs in order to go up, or up the steps before going down.
The view from the back patio of the lodge at Hawks Nest.

When Mom got showed me the schedule, I realized that I knew everyone involved with the 3 day birding program - Dave and Lynn Pollard, Connie Toops, Jeff Gordon, Bill Hilton, Jr., and Wil Herschberger. "Wow!" I thought, "It's a mini-New River festival!" I jumped at the chance to go.

Lynn points out the Black-and-white Warbler's
squeaky wheel song.

Interested participants listen closely.
That's Mom, in the black jacket, third from the right.
Exploritas site coordinator, Joan, is in the rear.

I had never birded with Lynn before - she's a very good trip leader, and I had a fun morning. I take back every mean lawyer joke I ever told, Lynn!

"Announcements, announcements, announcements!" No matter what you call the event, it wouldn't be birding in the New River corridor without Dave directing traffic. "We will divide into four groups..."
Dave Pollard organizing the boat and bird walk tour. At least he didn't say, "If you are coming from the south, from Oak Hill or Fayetteville, cross the bridge and take the first left onto the unmarked road ..."

Wil gave a great talk on using our cameras for the best bird and nature photos. While I will never get to his level, at least I am no longer afraid of the "Manual" mode on my camera.
Wil Hershberger helped us understand what all those buttons and dials are for.

Connie Toops (green jacket) leading our 6:30am bird walk.
Those of you who have done a walk with Connie know she is one of the best all-round naturalists there is, and a terrific person to boot. That's Dr. Scott Shalaway in the orange coat, helping us look for the elusive Scarlet Tanager, which remained one of my "heard onlys" on this trip.

We had indoors talks and early morning bird walks, our own version of "Birding by Boat" with a jet boat tour of the river from the dam to the bridge, and of course, a "Birding by Butt" day at Opossum Creek Resort, featuring breakfast and lunch catered by Wendy of Cathedral Cafe, bird banding by Bill Hilton, Jr,. and nature walks guided by Jim McCormac. More on that in later posts. First, a couple of photos to prove to last year's New River Festival attendees that it doesn't ALWAYS rain here:


Bill Hilton Jr. said...

KATHY . . .

Great to see you again in West Virginia and to meet your mom. Hugs,


P.S. Hope you'll add a link to "This Week at Hilton Pond" at

Kathi said...

Never fear, Bill - you will get your own post later, with your credits.