ASHEVILLE NC – Chimney Rock is well known for its colorful fall and stunning 75-mile views overlooking Lake Lure, but fewer visitors and locals know the State Park as a destination for year-round birding. The region’s premier fall migration birding event, Flock to the Rock, hosted by Chimney Rock for the past four years, has brought more attention to the Park’s abundant birding opportunities. Flock to the Rock will be held 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, September 21-22. This prime birding weekend coincides with the annual hawk migration when dozens, sometimes hundreds, of hawks can be seen during their flight south.
The weekend is packed full of bird walks guided by local experts and workshops ranging from bird photography, taught by renowned bird photographer Todd Arcos, to bird-friendly gardening, taught by Wild Birds Unlimited Asheville staff. Special to the event are live birds of prey programs both days and an “Early Bird” Migration Watch led by Simon Thompson, a world-traveled birding expert, at 7:30-10 a.m. on Sunday. Flock also includes family nature walks and kids’ activities to appeal to the whole family.
Flock to the Rock is included with paid Park admission, which is $12 adults, $6 youth (ages 5-15) and free for 4 years and under. An extra fee applies only to the “Early Bird” Migration Watch Sunday, which requires advance registration. Chimney Rock is an official site on the N.C. Birding Trail. For more details and a schedule of birding activities, visit chimneyrockpark.com.
“Chimney Rock is one of the most spectacular locations in Western North Carolina to spot a wide range of birds throughout the year, from countless warblers and vireos to tanagers and birds of prey. Flock to the Rock is held during the peak of fall migration and draws enthusiastic birders of all levels to the Park,” said Simon Thompson, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited Asheville and owner of Ventures Birding Tours.
The live birds of prey programs, which are held in Chimney Rock throughout the year, feature a non-releasable Red-tailed Hawk and a Great Horned Owl. Presented by Emily Walker, park naturalist and education manager, the half-hour educational programs will be held at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the Park’s Birdhouse. One of the largest North American owls, Great Horned Owls are called “tigers of the sky.” Their talons have an average gripping strength of twice that of a human adult male, and their heads can rotate 270 degrees. Though their most common prey includes rabbits and skunks, they have been known to eat hawks and smaller owl species. The bird programs will be followed by a guided family nature walk at 1:30-2:15 p.m. starting at Grady the Groundhog’s Animal Discovery Den on the Meadows.
A Premier Birding Destination
From its winding riverbanks to its dramatic cliffs, Chimney Rock is a haven for North Carolina resident birds, migrating birds and, of course, bird lovers. From beginner to experienced, people have long been flocking to the Rock to catch glimpses of their favorite birds. Chimney Rock is home to more than 130 species of birds throughout the year, including over 25 warbler species, vireos, tanagers, woodpeckers, thrushes, owls and a wide selection of birds of prey, including Peregrine Falcons. For more information on birding at the Park, visit chimneyrockpark.com/park/nature/northcarolinabirds.php.
Home to World’s Fastest Bird of Prey
While at Chimney Rock, train your binoculars along the Park’s soaring cliffs and up into the surrounding sky for a chance to see the amazing acrobatics of a Peregrine Falcon high above Hickory Nut Gorge. Peregrine Falcons (Falco Peregrinus) may slice through the air at more than 60mph or dive on smaller birds in flight at speeds up to 200mph. By the early 1960s, no Peregrines were found in this area, but these magnificent birds have made a comeback thanks to captive-breeding programs. Since 1990 when three of these young birds fledged in the Park, Peregrines have been sighted here almost every year. Last summer, a pair of mating adults hatched two fledgling Peregrine Falcons that were confirmed to be residing in Chimney Rock.
Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park offers scenic hiking trails, guided rock climbing, live animal education programs and ancient geological features that attract visitors from around the world. Chimney Rock is located only 45 minutes southeast of Asheville on Highway 64/74A in Chimney Rock, N.C. Call (800) 277-9611 or go to chimneyrockpark.com to plan your visit.
Simon Thompson and Chris Jaquette have owned Wild Birds Unlimited Asheville for the past three years. In addition to selling excellent quality bird seed and feeders, they also offer a great selection of bird houses, bird books, nature-related gifts and much more. Simon, Chris and the rest of the WBU staff can help you with any of your bird questions. Check out their website at www.asheville.wbu.com.
Ventures Birding Tours is based in Asheville, NC, and is owned and guided by world-traveled expert Simon Thompson. Ventures offers local bird watching trips to many local WNC birding hotspots, as well as tours throughout the US and overseas. From looking at warblers in the Blue Ridge to big game safaris in Africa, Ventures offers a wide range of bird watching and nature activities. Learn more or book a tour at www.birdventures.com.