Take Part in the

Great Backyard Bird Count

Right Here in the Heart of Appalachia

Barred Owl

Photos courtesy of Anna Ruth Coleman

Have you started your Great Backyard Bird Count?!

If you’ve never heard of the Great Backyard Bird Count, let us shed a little light for you. The GBBC is a world-wide event, where bird lovers from around the world come together for four days every February to see how many birds they can find and report. A community-led effort, the count provides scientists with a better understanding of global bird populations before the migration.

This year’s event started TODAY, Feb. 18 and continues through Monday, Feb. 21. If you haven’t already signed up, it’s insanely quick and easy. Just go to birdcount.org and click ‘Participate.’  Despite the name, your backyard isn’t the only location you can tap to collect ‘data.’ Check out these excellent locales right here in the Heart of Appalachia, where a wide array of species love to frequent:

  • Breaks Interstate Park

    Birding at Breaks is among the best in the Appalachians. Birdlife of all kinds can be found, attracted by Pine Mountain’s rich forestland, Laurel Lake, Beaver Pond, and the extensive trails that take you from high atop rocky cliffs, then back down to cool mountain springs and streams. From larger birds common to the area to those that are a bit more rare, like the American Bald Eagle, the range in topography equates to a birding experience like none other.

  • Poplar Gap

    With multiple stops along the Lonesome Pine Loop of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, including Compton Mountain, one of the best locations in Buchanan County to spot birdlife is Poplar Gap. With the multi-use Coal Canyon Trail just minutes away in Southern Gap, grab the camera and enjoy remarkable views of mountain scapes between snaps of Horned Larks, Yellow-breasted Chats, Killdeer, American Kestrels, Grasshopper Sparrows, and many more. Created under the guidance of the local bird club, the Buchanan County Bird Trail brochure is available at various locations throughout the region, offering specific locations throughout the county, where many more species may be found.

  • Clinch River State Park

    Eight miles of trails on the Sugar Hill Unit of Clinch River State Park are teeming with wildlife, just waiting to be discovered through the lens of your camera. Though the park is currently still in development, the Clinch River contains more fish species than any other river in Virginia – attracting both anglers AND fowl, alike!

  • Natural Tunnel State Park

    With seven walking trails, leading to everything from the tunnel floor to Lover’s Leap, Tunnel Hill and Gorge Ridge, Natural Tunnel State Park is one of the most accessible parks in the region. With a 500-foot boardwalk and observation deck, guests with disabilities may even ride the chairlift, when operable, to the mouth of the tunnel. Like many of the best birding locations, the variety of landscape at Natural Tunnel, which includes Stock Creek and many other trouting streams, provides birdlife with everything they’re looking for in an ideal pit stop this time of year.

  • Southwest Virginia Historical Museum State Park

    The museum is an Audubon Bird Sanctuary, and a large variety of songbirds can be seen on the grounds. While you’re there, you can enjoy the museum’s permanent outdoor exhibit, the Southwest Virginia Walk of Fame, which showcases the region’s heritage. Within walking distance of the Bullitt Park/Greenbelt Trail, this is one location that you’ll definitely want to tap.

  • Wilderness Road State Park

    An 8.5-mile hiking, biking and equestrian trail, Wilderness Road State Park is a registered stop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. Several trails within the park, including Indian Ridge, Pioneer, and Fisherman’s Loop, provide scenic views of Martin’s Station Fort, the iconic White Rocks, Indian Creek, and the Powell River – the second most biologically diverse aquatic system in the nation. Black-billed Cuckoo, Bay-breasted Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Golden-winged Warbler have been recorded as migrants in this area.

  • Mountain Heritage Loop

    Home to six of the eight designated points on The Virginia Birding the Wildlife Trail’s Mountain Heritage Loop, Tazewell County will blow up your bird count in a major way. Sandy Head Ostrich Farm is the first site on the Mountain Heritage Loop in Tazewell County. Along with native species, the farm is home to ratites (flightless birds), such as ostriches and emus, as well as rare breed chickens, such as Turkens and Aracaunas. Burke’s Garden is a beautiful geological formation and the only community in the state designated as a National Historic Rural District. With access points to the Appalachian Trail and breathtaking overlooks of the entire bowl-shaped region, you better bring a camera. A good amount of migratory birds are waiting to be spotted around the area’s two lakes, located in Lincolnshire Park and Cavitt’s Creek Park.

  • Flag Rock Recreation Area

    With loads of hiking trails to satiate your birding addiction, the campground is located adjacent to the Jefferson National Forest and is within a short hike, bike ride, or drive from the High Knob summit and observation tower. While you’ll certainly get your fill of woodland birds in this location, the higher elevation is ideal for mountainous breeding varieties.