A Recap of our Bird Outing at Blackwater Falls 

By Cory Chase

We had a full gaggle of birders for our first outing of the year on May 21 in Davis. On a brisk and breezy Sunday morning, we set out from the Allegheny Trail parking lot and hiked into Blackwater Falls State Park along the Blackwater River. The rain from the previous day made for that scintillating spring combination of moisture and coolness, and we were fortunate that the weather was in full cooperation as the sun was there to warm us up along the way. Our guide was Casey Rucker, an accomplished birder who has recently helped co-edit The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in WV with WV State Ornithologist Rich Bailey. Casey is also the editor of The Redstart, the scientific publication of Brooks Bird Club

Casey also had an assistant, famed Parsons Lafontaine Bakery owner Mimi Kibler (retired baker, I should say…and sad for all of us ciabatta lovers!) Mimi diligently recorded all the birds we encountered on the Cornell University bird app, eBird. Many of us, myself included, had our phones out to use the partner Cornell Lab app called Merlin, which has a brilliant feature that allows you to identify birds in real time by listening to their calls. Thank goodness because, in the forest, it can be pretty hard to spot them, loud or even bright as they may be. Casey mentioned that this tool can be a great teacher and also a crutch. 

Like any tool, it depends on how you use it. The Merlin app has all sorts of recorded calls for the plethora of birds, but Casey also cautioned that humans should not use these calls to try to call in birds as it could be stressful and confusing to the birds. And in many cases, it is actually illegal! A life sentence of no more binoculars would be crippling to any birder (that is sarcasm; I don’t know what the rules or penalties are).

Usually, when the foliage is out like it was on this day, you tend to hear the birds more often than you get to see them. Once we got out of the woods and into the open, we did see more birds than when we started, and we warmed up more, too. While not that natural, some of the easiest birds to watch were perched on a power line. Still, we did see birds flitting by, circling overhead, and hopping around in the grasses and moss closer to the glamping sites in the park. And one Ruby-throated Hummingbird was hardly phased by us as he zipped from flower to flower on some trees along the trail.

Occasionally, Casey would pipe up with fascinating information and recent discoveries about birds. One such tidbit was the fairly new research about how birds navigate by being able to see the earth’s magnetic field. A chemical being studied in birds’ retinas called cryptochrome is hypothesized to have magnetic receptivity. This “microscopic magnet” may allow birds to see the magnetic field and act as a sort of internal compass. Now I want to know what it is like to see that! Alas, I will have to remain a homo sapien. 

As of this writing, we do not have any other bird outings scheduled yet, but the interest from our members and the general public hints that we could do this at least a few times over the summer if not more. Keep your eyes out for more outings here in the Highlands Voice and on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Here is the list that Mimi compiled on eBird. Thanks, Mimi! And thanks to Casey and everyone that came out with us. And a special thanks to the birds.

22 Total Species Observed

61 individuals


Mourning Dove 2

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1

Killdeer 1

Broad-winged Hawk 2

Northern Flicker 2

Red-eyed Vireo 4

Blue Jay 3

American Crow 5

Black-capped Chickadee 3

House Wren 3

Gray Catbird 1

Brown Thrasher 1

American Robin 4

American Goldfinch 3

Song Sparrow 5

Eastern Towhee 4

Red-winged Blackbird 2

Common Grackle 3

Common Yellowthroat 7

Yellow Warbler 1

Chestnut-sided Warbler 1

Yellow-rumped Warbler 3