Every spring I make the trek to south-central West Virginia to help out guiding, speaking, and performing at the New River Birding and Nature Festival. If you’re a birder who uses social media or reads blogs or birding magazines, you’ve probably heard of “New River.” It’s a small festival—only about 100 attendees total—that doesn’t want to grow any larger than it is.
That’s just one of the things that sets this event apart from other, larger spring birding events.There are lots of things about New River that appeal to me: the incredible natural beauty of the New River Gorge region, the amazing variety of nesting, migrant, and resident birds, the chance to eat ramps (a local delicacy) …
but I think the real reason is the people.
I’ve become great friends with the folks who founded and run the festival. Geoff, Dave, Keith, and Rachel have been throwing a weeklong birding camp for the past decade-plus, and we’re like family at this point.
I guess that’s why the New River Birding Festival enjoys such a high rate of repeat attendees—folks who just want to spend a week together in the mountains absorbing birds and nature. We call them repeat offenders, or perhaps a better term is “repeat befrienders,” because anyone who attends is guaranteed to make new friends.
The festival’s field trips reach out in all directions from the home base near Fayetteville, West Virginia. Half-day trips visit places like Fayette Station, Wolf Creek, Nuttallburg, Long Point, and Babcock State Park. Full-day trips reach farther afield to Cranberry Glades, Sewell Mountain, and Muddlety Strips. All trips are lead by expert naturalist-guides who, thanks to the small group sizes, are able to share their knowledge with everyone.From pre-dawn breakfasts on the edge of the New River Gorge to the field trips into the wild and wonderful mountain realms, and from the afternoon popcorn talks to the home-cooked dinners and local microbrews, this event is as relaxing and down-home as any birding festival I’ve ever experienced. And it’s one that’s always on my spring calendar.
“But how’s the birding?” I hear you asking. Well, the checklist for one recent New River Birding Festival had 154 species seen—33 of which were warblers! Oh, and I almost forgot: This is THE place to spend some quiet, quality time with three of North America’s most glamorous, hard-to-find warblers: cerulean, golden-winged, and Swainson’s.So why not pack up the bins and boots and trek to West Virginia this May 2 to 7 for some of the most enjoyable birding and fun socializing you’ll ever experience! You can come for a few days or the whole week! I hope to see you there!
For more information about the New River Birding and Nature Festival, or to register (but hurry because space is limited) visit http://www.birding-wv.com/
About the Author
Bill Thompson III is the editor and co-publisher of Bird Watcher's Digest. He's the author of many books about birds and a frequent speaker and guide on the birding festival circuit. His favorite bird is the red-headed woodpecker.