Spring Bird Walks Scheduled at Prickett’s Fort State Park the Last Three Saturdays in April

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FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Brisk spring mornings are perfect for birds and the people who watch them. Morning bird walks will be offered on three Saturdays in April at Prickett’s Fort State Park near Fairmont. Bird walk dates are April 16, 23, 30.

“The leaders meet attendees at the at Prickett’s Fort Visitor’s Center at 8 a.m. for departure,” according to Sue Olcott, a biologist with the Wildlife Resources Section of the Division of Natural Resources. Either Olcott or retired DNR biologist Jim Evans or both will lead the walks. “The length of time to complete the walk depends on the morning bird activity, and weather is always a factor – but typically the walk lasts about two hours,” Olcott said. The bird walks at Prickett’s Fort and any of the park birding activities are casual and there is no charge.

Prickett’s Fort is located near Fairmont.  For directions to the park visit www.prickettsfortstatepark.com or call the fort at 304-363-3030.

The route is easy, but the surface can be uneven, so participants should wear sturdy walking shoes. Attendees should bring binoculars and a bird guide if they have them, “but we always have a few pairs of binoculars for loan,” said Olcott.

In addition to the bird walks on each of these dates, bird banding is conducted at the fort area by licensed bird bander Joey Herron of Fairmont. Spring migrants observed in previous years include Blue-winged Warblers, Orchard Orioles and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Local birds attendees may see (and hear) are Warbling Vireo, Northern Mockingbird and Gray Catbird, to name a few.  “A Swainson’s Warbler was heard and sighted in the area throughout the 2010 summer,” according to Herron. “People came to see it from at least seven different states and as far away as Queens, New York.”

Cornell University’s website says a Swainson’s Warbler is “one of the most secretive and least observed of all North American birds. It is a skulking bird of the southern canebrakes and rhododendron thickets.  If it weren’t for its loud, ringing song, the presence of the species in many areas would go completely undetected.”  Swainson’s Warbler wintering grounds are in the dry limestone forests of Jamaica.

Organized bird walks are a great way to get started in bird watching. “Most birdwatchers keep a life list,” said Herron. “Like any explorer or adventurer, we travel to where an unusual species may be. Birders spend a lifetime enjoying the pursuit.”

For additional information regarding the April bird walks at Prickett’s Fort State Park, call Sue Olcott, biologist with the WVDNR Wildlife Diversity Unit, at 304-825-6787.