This spring we decided to visit North Carolina, a state we’d never visited but have always wanted to see and of course do some birding while in the area. On the east side of the state on the Tennessee border lies the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which covers a section of the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains. An hour from the park is Asheville, North Carolina, a beautiful mountain town with lots of great brew pubs and home to the Biltmore Estate.
Excited to see some new birds we started our trip from Asheville and drove about hour up the highway to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, the eastern most entrance to the park. From the parking lot a trail follows the Oconaluftee River and here we spent the majority of our day. The kids had a blast hiking up and down the river looking for frogs, salamanders, and tadpoles as we looked for birds! Both fly-fisherman and a large Osprey eyed the river for fish, we also saw a Kingfisher and heard Carolina Chickadees as we strolled along the path. After leaving the visitor center we traveled further up into the Blue Ridge Mountains stopping at viewing points and also to watch a heard of elk wander down the side of the road. On our way back to Asheville we visited the Frog Level Brewing which has a wonderful patio right on Plott Creek that runs through the town of Waynesville, a great place for good food and beer. On the patio we were visited by the North Carolina State bird, the Northern Cardinal (also the state bird of six other states but who’s counting).
On our final day we visited some friends and fellow bloggers at the Biltmore Estate. The Biltmore is the largest private home in the United States, built by George Vanderbilt as a summer house – must be nice to have a summer house like this! This massive home contains one of the earliest indoor pools, a bowling alley, hundreds of rooms and an incredible conservatory filled with tropical plants. I was a skeptic at first due to the high cost of the entry and home tour (over $100 per person) but it was well worth it. My kids loved the tour of the house which included a kids audio guide. As incredible as the house was you could spend days touring the grounds, the Biltmore estate sits on 8,000 acres filled with hiking trails, creeks, ponds and of course a lot of birds! It also has a village with a hotel, winery, restaurant, ice cream, playground and farm where the kids were able to hold a baby chick.
We definitely needed more than a day but enjoyed all the birds including the Northern Mockingbirds faking out the Merlin app. We also saw more Cardinals, an Eastern Bluebird (looks just like a Western Bluebird, just lives in the east), plenty of ducks and geese, and a Tufted Titmouse. A lot of new lifers for us! If you’ve never been to North Carolina make sure to check out the Biltmore while you’re there!
Things to Note:
- As mentioned our Asheville friends are fellow bloggers – learn more about Asheville at their site About Asheville. Also for travel tips check out their main site, the Wandering Wheatleys.
- These shots were taken with the Sony a7 along with the Sony FE 200-600mm lens and a Sony 2x Teleconverter.
- Please check out our resources page to learn more about the equipment we used to find and take these shots!
- There are lots of great places to stay in Asheville – here is a list of Asheville hotels, we stayed at the Tunnel Road Marriott – you could even stay at the Inn on Biltmore Estate!
- It’s springtime and we’ve upped our backyard bird game with a couple of new feeders. We currently get House Finches, Song Sparrows, Chickadees and Nuthatches. And of course our resident Anna’s Hummingbirds. Make your backyard birds happy and get them a new feeder!