Warblers, MINI Coopers, Moon Pies, and the Donner Party


Obviously, I am talking here about the May 2004 Carolina Bird Club (CBC) meeting at Fontana Village. What a great two-day trip!  I had twenty-one warbler species (without counting the Blackpoll I think I had) and a boatload of good stuff like Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.


I had never been to Stecoah Gap; however, it lived up to its reputation!  We had four Blackburnian Warblers and a couple of Cerulean Warblers near the parking area which was not too shabby of a start.


The meeting was very well organized, the trip leaders were great, and the setting was uniquely beautiful.  J. Wallace Coffey’s keynote was humbling and very inspirational!


When I arrived Friday night, I found that we were sharing the Village with a MINI Cooper owner’s convention.  They were having the second annual Dragon Run the next day.  The Dragon is a nearby road that is solid switchbacks.  Good name!


That night, the Minis had a dance and party and showed off their cars at the Adventure Center across from my cabin.  Fortunately, they were not near as rowdy as the Harley and airboat gatherings I have experienced on  a couple of other explorations.  


The next morning, I checked the official time for breakfast and found that it was 7:30A…too late for eating before the morning field trip.  Forgetting they were having a buffet breakfast especially for the CBC, I checked out the Adventure Center for a vending machine.


What I found were leftovers from the party.  The tables were a mess but beggars can’t be choosers.  I had a leftover brownie with my coffee and then spied a lonely Moon Pie that needed to be liberated.  I took it as survival rations, tossing it up on the dash in case I did not get to eat lunch.


During the morning trip, there were some covetous remarks made by the group but I fended off the crowd.  I had a decent lunch so the Moon Pie survived into the afternoon.  I forgot to mention...it was a double-decker!


My birds around Fontana Village and on the Rhymer's Ferry Road trip Saturday morning included: Common Loon, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Acadian Flycatcher, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Common Raven, Wood Thrush, White-eyed Vireo, Swainson's Warbler, Northern Parula Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet Tanager, and Indigo Bunting.


On my afternoon trip, the covetous remarks continued and the crowd got surly so I promised the Moon Pie to the one who found us a Golden-winged Warbler.  Steve Patterson found the bird at Stecoah Gap and after dinner I presented him the prize.


Did I mention it was a double-decker?


My other Stecoah Gap birds not mentioned above included:  Red-eyed Vireo, Black-and-white Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, American Redstart, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.


On Sunday, seven of us braved the birding trip back to Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway though fog, driving rain, and gale force winds.  It was a bad day for birding and impossible for us to find the Northern Saw-whet Owl, at the Devil’s Courthouse Overlook, that we had hoped for.  At least we found Canada, Hooded, and Chestnut-sided Warblers.


We decided to dub ourselves the Donner Party and I took a picture of the others at Cemetery Fields just in case we did not make it.    The others: Gail, Marilyn, Edith, Andrea, Becky, and Becky.  A few days later a picture of this brave group, enduring these gruesome conditions, was posted to the CBC website for all to behold.


Around Noon we stopped for lunch and fortunately, none of us turned into a cannibal.  Everyone had lunches except me; however, I had eaten a big breakfast…but sure wished I still had that Moon Pie!


Later in the year I had the honor of passing over the Donner Summit on my way from Reno to Sacramento.  No, I did not stop in for a cold one and, unfortunately, I was not packing a Moon Pie.




The author, John Ennis, is a full time healthcare consultant and a part time birder, who wishes that it were the other way around.  He lives in the Wilmington, North Carolina area. 



John B. Ennis ã 2004