Part of the birding dilemma in Carolina this summer was that I didn't get there until the doldrums of mid-July, which means the Warblers are as high as they are elevated, and most of the visible birds are immature caricatures--and before you ask, I did not get to the coast. One such bird that seems like a caricature but isn't is the Pileated Woodpecker, mightiest and punk rockiest of WPs this side of the Atlantic.
Ever dutiful, I made one check-in trip to my local stomping ground in Washington, Carolina: Goose Creek SP, where one can get very crushy with PRWA and YTWA in June. Both of these warblers were scare to come by now, but a broody snapping turtle was pretty cool. By the way, you should watch this quick video of an alligator snapper biting a pineapple, and then never swim in murky water again. A young Pewee had no effect one way of the other.
For part of Carolina time we stayed in the Asheville area, which truly does live up to its reputation for good brews, food, and music, and well as most exposed private parts per-park per-capita in the U.S. The proximity also enabled some lovely mountain hikes.
I'll quit whining about the lackluster birding, especially because the cataracts were 10/10.
Canada and Black-throated Green were the only Warblers I could pick up on the high trails (with a briefly vocalizing BTBW causing extra aggravation). That misty, haunting ridge forest, among the red fir and blankets of moss, is intoxicating nonetheless, and does still boast some vocal birds. Winter Wrens were seemingly everywhere along the trails, though getting them in decent light was yet another matter of inverse frequency.
The singular call of Veery was most welcome after a year away, and while some special sneaking was still required, I actually had much better views of this species than in previous years.
My salamander game was weak this time around, but how about a peeping Garter?
Although I couldn't materialize Eastern Screech-Owl, some of the best overall birding was in the relative lowlands around the property in the Asheville area. Indigo Buntings do not seem to stop singing...like ever. They were singing away on top of Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi, and singing away in even greater numbers along the yard-side woodlands. Matching them in sound if not by sight were Field Sparrows. They deserve respect to...I guess.
The best sighting of the trip was a Scarlet Tanager couple, a species I had only seen once before, and poorly, as a vagrant in Arizona. I had all of about 5 seconds in the rain with this bird at eye level but good gracious gravy what a looker. I don't even mind anymore that I've had to wait like 6 years and many east-coast trips to see this bird again. All is forgiven for your scarlet letter, Natanager Scawthorne.
How often does one get up close and personal with a Luna Moth? Not often in my case, so that was also cool.
But you're thinking, "Butler, you kiss-ass namby pamby, what is with this vacationing and no birds? We want better. We deserve better. We're already dealing with the 2016 election depression, Chinese aggression and destabilization in Europe, a lackluster Olympics, and now this pablum!? You are a cad and in better days, would hang by the neck until dead."
Well, I agree, and this weekend is a birthday weekend, which means I can go birding in SE AZ and not no one can stop me not no how. Solid.