High Peaks Birders


Who We Are

High Peaks Birders had its beginning with the monthly strolls offered by High Peaks Trail Association starting in March 2014. Laura Seelbach and Bob Repoley lead the strolls and eventually went on to organize the Yancey County Christmas Bird Count later that year. Both the strolls and the CBC were well attended by birders and nature lovers from expert to beginner.

Springing from these successful ventures, a core group of interested people met in January 2015 with the intention of exploring the possibility of starting a birding club in Yancey County, which was eventually called “Yancey Birders”. The core group, now known as the OWLS, began organizing birding activities in the county and at the same time opened up discussions with High Peaks Trail Association about coming under the “wing” of High Peaks.

In May 2015 after organizing two successful general meetings and contributing to other birding activities in Yancey County, Yancey Birders joined High Peaks Trail Association and took the new name of High Peaks Birders. All of our events are free and open to the public. We do not have a formal membership. Anyone who comes to an event or meeting can choose to be on the High Peaks Birders mailing list and receive our occasional Newsletter. If you do not receive our Newsletter and would like to, simply click on the link “Subscribe Mail List” at the top right of this page. We encourage all birders to join High Peaks Trail Association and support the people who support us.

The OWLS continue to meet once a month to plan programs and activities. These meetings are open to the public. Please feel welcome to attend and take part in what we are hooting about. We also offer monthly birding strolls at Cane River Park and maintain a growing list of birds spotted during these outings. Check out the High Peaks Monthly Activity Calendar for more details.  For some tips on birding, please read our Birding Etiquette Guide.


Taking Actions for Birds

As a result of the 2016 election, the Republicans have control of the White House, the US Senate, and the US House of Representatives. All three of these agree on an agenda of reduced environmental regulations. An example of what they have in mind: the Obama era regulation that halted the dumping of mine waste in mountain streams (to date, over 1,500 miles of streams have been destroyed) was rescinded in the first month of the Trump administration. Known target agencies are EPA, multiple bureaus within Department of the Interior, US Forest Service (Dept of Agriculture). The announced legislative targets I am most familiar with are the Endangered Species Act (the last hope for an increasing number of species), and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA, the bedrock for protection of migratory birds for 100 years despite powerful opposition). You will recall that the US House of Representatives advanced a bill last year that would have eliminated all enforcement funding for the MBTA. This would have effectively repealed the Act had it passed. Other targets include the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. The stars are now aligned for the extreme anti-environmentalists to take the teeth out of any and all legislation that results in environmental protection. Not surprisingly, this has alarmed conservation organizations and scientists across the country including National Audubon, The Wildlife Society and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC). The American Bird Conservancy has take the step of preparing a sign-on petition to the US Congress urging them to maintain protections for migratory birds. The OWLS discussed this topic and decided that High Peaks Birders (HPB) would sign on to the petition. Since we are organizationally affiliated with the NC High Peaks Trail Association, our representative to their Board of Directors asked their opinion about the HPB signing on to the petition. Not only did they approve, they signed on as well. A note to HPB members: please consider calling or writing a personal email to each member of NC delegation to Congress that represents you (Sen. Tillis, Sen. Burr and Rep. Meadows) and urge them in strong terms to maintain protections for birds. The link for the ABC petition:


US Senators: Richard Burr  202-224-3154
                    Thom Tillis   202-224-6342
US Representative: Mark Meadows  202-225-6401               Thanks for helping the birds!


Upcoming Events:

Help plant a bird garden at the Western Residence: Friday, June 22, 9 am to noon - 45 Patton Mountain Rd, Asheville, NC 28804

First Lady of NC Kristin Cooper is a big fan of the birds, and with the help of Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, Audubon NC is expanding our bird-friendly gardening at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh to the Western Residence in Asheville. Please join the fun and help get plants in the ground!

Landscape designer and New Hope Audubon volunteer Ben Skelton, assisted by Kim Brand of Audubon NC, will direct our efforts to plant around 500 native shrubs and perennials. The Western Residence staff will prepare beds ahead of time and dig the larger holes. Please bring your own garden gloves, shovel, and trowel if you have them; if not, we’ll have extras. Bring your own water bottle (Audubon NC is going plastic-free!) and a hat, and wear closed-toe shoes.

Just a heads up, Sharon Bruce of BC/DC Ideas will be on hand to take photos for nc.audubon.org and other Audubon communications.  Please RSVP to Kim Brand: kbrand@audubon.org or cell 336-391-9614.

Big Bald Vacation Bird School 2018: July 9-13, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Students from Madison, Yancey, and Buncombe counties are invited to join us for Big Bald Vacation Bird School (VBS), a five-day bird study experience for rising 5th-7th graders. Participants will take part in daily expeditions into the Big Bald habitat via the Appalachian Trail to explore the natural history and habitat of bird communities. Activities include literature readings, creative writing, applied arts, nest searching, bird banding and data collection techniques to help see, identify and understand birds and the ecology of the Southern Appalachian mountains.
VBS 2108 will be held July 9-13, 2018, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuition is $250. Due to grant funding, full and partial scholarships are available to Yancey and Madison Co. residents. Our base camp for the week is located in the Wolf Laurel community of Madison Co. Transportation from Mars Hill will be provided for students traveling from outer areas.  
VBS is offered by Southern Appalachian Raptor Research (SARR), a nonprofit organization of people passionate about birds of all types, including birds of prey and the environments they inhabit in the southern Appalachians.  Registration materials are available at https://bigbaldbanding.org/vbs/.  For additional information, email us at bigbaldbanding@gmail.com.   Our Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/southernappalachianraptor.

Teaching with the Birds of Big Bald – Saturday, July 21, 2018, 9am-2pm, at Big Bald Mountain (25 minutes north of Mars Hill, NC)

Teachers from Yancey, Madison, and surrounding counties are invited to explore and experience the birds of Big Bald. This workshop will introduce teachers to hands-on learning activities in the beauty and unique high-elevation habitat of Big Bald Mountain, located along the Appalachian Trail (1/2 mile hike from parking lot). Learn how you can use this setting and the bird banding station for experiential learning with your students. We will spend the majority of the workshop outdoors. Lunch will be provided. Gas stipends are available for Madison and Yancey teachers. Participants will receive a Certificate of Completion for credit toward NCEE Criteria II and NC CEU.  

Offered by Southern Appalachian Raptor Research (SARR), a nonprofit organization of people passionate about birds. Leaders include NC public school teachers and certified environmental educators, Tedi McManus & Tina Thomas, and SARR Program Director, Mark Hopey.

Click here to register.  Click here for directions to Big Bald.  Please email us at bigbaldbanding@gmail.com with any questions.  

Funding for this workshop is provided by a Creating New Economies Fund grant from The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities program, with generous support from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.



Recent Bird Observations In Yancey County

On The Blue Ridge Parkway: Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Red-Tailed Hawk, Blue-headed Vireo, Common Raven, Red-breasted Nut Hatch, Winter Wren, Black-throated Green Warbler, Fox Sparrow.
In the Valleys: Turkey Vulture, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue Jay, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch


Other Links Of Interest

May Wildlife Rehab Center:  This is an outstanding rehab facility for injured or orphaned birds and other wildlife located on the Lees McRae campus in Banner Elk, NC.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology:  A great site for bird ID and bird webcams.

National Audubon Society and Audubon of North Carolina

Carolina Bird Club:  A birding club spanning North and South Carolina.

Partners In Flight:  An organization that coordinates international efforts to conserve bird populations in the Western Hemisphere.

Bird Note:  Podcasts and stories about birds, the environment, and more.

Big Bald Banding: Southern Appalachian Raptor Research and banding station in Madison County, NC.

Carolina Native Nursery:  A great source for native plants that will attract birds and other wildlife.

Beginner's Guide to Birdwatching: Tips and ideas for blossoming birders.