Trip 5 – Birding
Come Birding in Big Stone Gap!
Birding along Virginia’s wildlife trails is an activity well suited for folks of all abilities and ages. From the eastern shore to the western mountains, a broad range of avian fauna is readily accessible by way of a well-organized state wide system of paths, observation points, and scenic locations. But few of the Commonwealth’s wildlife viewing sites are more family friendly than the Big Stone Gap Greenbelt. Whether you are a beginning nature lover or an experienced bird photographer, you’ll find something special along the three-mile loop trail. You’ll follow the banks of the historic Powell River and ease past woodland, fields, and yards; amazed at the variety of birds encountered. You can spend an hour, or a whole morning filled with birdsong, along the Greenbelt!
From April 2018 until April 2020, local birders walked the trail every other Friday, gathering information on numbers and species. They were astonished at the many different types identified. The trail’s proximity to parks, forests, and the river makes it ideal for seeing a variety of birds during every stroll. Common are the great blue heron and the blue grey gnatcatcher, the gold finch and the purple finch! Six different kinds of woodpeckers have been seen (and definitely heard)! A pair of bald eagles were spotted routinely at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Powell though-out the two years of data collection – that totaled 5,400 birds and 80 species!
A trip to Big Stone Gap just for the Greenbelt is definitely worthwhile, but the serious birders can stay all day to also visit one, or all, of the town’s nine parks, the Big Cherry Lake reservoir, and the Southwest Virginia Historical State Park (a Virginia bird sanctuary). Our local birding experts recommend an overnight visit to see it all, with dinner at one of several excellent eateries and, during the summer, catch the “Trail of the Lonesome Pine” outdoor drama at the June Tolliver Playhouse. An interesting fact, for pest control, the Playhouse uses a series of strategically positioned screech owl boxes in lieu of chemical rodenticides. Big Stone Gap is a community that adores birds and especially loves birders!