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Try out bad weather birding

Published 9:29am Monday, August 19, 2013

Hurricanes are the classic epitomes of bad weather and yes, the hurricanes that swept through WNC a couple of years ago did indeed drop some birds. We had an incredible selection of gulls, terns and shorebirds, including half a dozen species never recorded in the county before – maybe never in this region of the state either.

Winter is also a great time of the year to experience some bad weather birding – a good snowstorm can drop ducks onto almost any patch of open water and some severe icing can force waterfowl to larger lakes and reservoirs.

Lake Julian, near Asheville, is a classic example of this. Normally, this is a large somewhat uninteresting, maybe food-starved lake, but during rotten and unsettled weather, it’s always worth checking. In the past we have had flocks of Common Loon over 50 strong, hundreds of Redhead, Mergansers, Scaup and many other species of waterfowl.

Ospreys often hang around for a few days and even a Bald Eagle has dropped in to see during its twice-yearly migrations what it can feed upon. However, these birds rarely stay for more than a day or two, so you had better be quick.

Of course, bad weather birding can be somewhat hazardous. I don’t encourage hopping into the car and driving out during a major snowstorm, or more especially, a serious ice storm. Personal responsibility is important and besides, we do want to live a little longer to see what else may appear during the year.

Simon Thompson has lived in WNC for the past 20 years. He owns and operates his own birding tour company, Ventures Birding Tours. Find more information at

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