Important Bird Areas

A Spring Bird Count at Hanging Rock

North Carolina has 96 Important Bird Areas across the state that support wildlife in very special ways while offering a recreational playground for birds and people alike. In this special blog series, each of Audubon North Carolina’s 10 chapters will take a walk through their IBAs to give readers a glimpse of what can be enjoyed in our own backyards.

Please welcome guest-blogger and member of the Forsyth Audubon Society, Philip Dickinson.

“Not far from the urban landscape of the Triad cities, there is another North Carolina to be discovered. Hanging Rock State Park offers sheer cliffs and peaks of bare rock, quiet forests and cascading waterfalls, and views of the piedmont plateau that stretch for miles.” NC Birding Trail

Stokes County’s Hanging Rock State Park is one the most popular parks in the North Carolina system. It offers beautiful waterfalls, a lake for swimming, miles of hiking trails, a large campground and magnificent views of the Piedmont and Pilot Mountain from the heights of Moore’s Knob and Hanging Rock.

And, most importantly, it is a great place to see birds during spring migration!

Hanging Rock by Phil Dickinson

Peregrine Falcons used to nest on the cliff below Moore’s Knob, which was the primary reason for Hanging Rock to be proposed as an IBA. Alas, the male peregrine lost its mate and failed to return. But Audubon Society of Forsyth County has maintained its adoption of the park under the IBA program.

As part of the chapter’s commitment to the Hanging Rock IBA, members inventory the park’s bird activity with Christmas and spring bird counts. Our latest count was held on May 7.

Skies were overcast at the start of the day. In fact, the upper areas of the park were socked in with near-zero visibility. But within hours, we were basking in warm sun under a cloudless sky. Rapid changes in cloud cover and temperatures are nothing new at this park, and we were not deterred.

I am pleased to report the warblers weren’t deterred either. With spring arriving a few days late this year, the Ovenbirds, American Redstarts, Northern Parulas, Black-throated Blues and Black-throated Greens were numerous. Prothonotary, Prairie and Louisiana Waterthrush were singing too.

In 2012 and 2013, we found Swainson’s Warbler among the rhododendrons along Indian Creek, but we weren’t able to find one this year.

Last year, the park added the River Bluffs Trail. Constructed by volunteers from the Friends of Sauratown Mountains, the trail loops through bottomland woods along the beautiful Dan River. Here, we added Orchard Oriole to the park species list and observed other birds, like Pileated Woodpecker, Wood Thrush and Scarlet Tanager.

The overall tally by 13 observers along six routes was 74 species and 711 birds. Both were record numbers for the count!

View from Moore's Knob by Phil Dickinson.

Hanging Rock State Park is part of the North Carolina Birding Trail.

Participants: Jean Aldridge, Mary Franklin Blackburn, Jean Chamberlain, Carol Cunningham, Phil Dickinson, Kerry Eckhardt, Kendall Harden, Craig McCleary, Chris Menten, Ron Morris, Wayne Petel, Meline Price, Chuck Thompson

Philip Dickinson serves as a board member, website manager, IBA coordinator and Pilot Mountain Hawk Watch compiler, and is also a past president of Forsyth Audubon. He has co-authored the Bird's Eye View column in the Winston-Salem Journal with Ron Morris. In 2008, Philip was named Audubon North Carolina Volunteer of the Year.

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