Saturday, August 15, 2015

North Carolina Mountain Birds: Black-and-White Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler [photo: Audubon]

It's black. And white. And it warbles. Guess who's our August 2015 bird in our 12 Month of Birding series on the blog? You guess it -- the Black-and-white Warbler!

This is one of Innkeeper Brigette's favorite birds, which is saying a lot because she has a teensy bit of a bird phobia. But who can resist smiling when the happy whistling song of the Black-and-white Warbler starts being heard in springtime as this beautiful bird makes its way to the North Carolina mountains from its winter home in Florida, central America and South America?

The Black-and-white Warbler is easy to identify...a boldly striped black and white head and body, long black wings with two white wingbars, and a short tail. In terms of size, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology states that the Black-and-white Warbler is larger than a chickadee but smaller than a nuthatch.

Black-and-white Warblers love Pisgah National Forest around the Inn on Mill Creek and can be seen in many nearby spots, including woodsy areas on the Blue Ridge Parkway and also at Chimney Rock State Park. Fun fact: You will likely see them mostly in trees, as they forage up and down tree trunks like nuthatches, in search of insects, but they actually build their nests on the ground at the bases of trees and rocks or under shrubs.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Art at the Inn: Black Mountain Art in the Afternoon Program


Artwork by Cameron from the after school program

In February of this year, we were at one of Black Mountain's restaurants -- a longtime local favorite called My Fathers Pizza. While devouring our lasagna, spinach ravioli and tasty artichoke salad, we started talking about how when we first came to the area in 2007, we noticed how much art by local artists was displayed at local restaurants and how awesome that was to be in an area that is so supportive of its artists.

In fact, one piece in particular that we saw back then, at My Father's Pizza, was titled Caladiums by Marguerite Welty and we ended up contacting the artist and began displaying her work at the Inn on Mill Creek, eventually buying that piece (which is hanging in our Great Room). We have hooked up with several more artists since then, and now you'll see lots of art on display and for sale when you stay at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B. We love being part of the art lover community.

Well, in a full circle moment, while we were chatting at My Father's Pizza in February about the art on display at the Inn, we noticed a mixed media piece hanging up on the wall by our table. It simple said, "Cameron Williams, Grade 2." Our server told us that it was part of a display of artwork created by local kids who participate in the Art in the Afternoon Program at the Carver Recreation Center in Black Mountain. The art wasn't for sale necessarily, but we were really inspired by Cameron's artwork, and we were especially wowed by the fact that this cool piece of art was done by someone who was 7 years old! We thought it would be a perfect addition to the art at the Inn.

We contacted the program's director, Stephanie Sulzman, and learned that Cameron and his family had moved away, but his art was still at the rec center. Wanting to support of this fabulous after school program for students in kindergarten through 5th grade, we made a donation and were able to bring Cameron's piece back to the B&B, where it now hangs (one of the few pieces of art that's not for sale.) Cameron, if you ever read this, you are one talented kid!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wildlife Seen at the Inn This Year

First deer spotted at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B in *8* years!
This has been a great year to view the wildlife in Pisgah National Forest surrounding the Inn on Mill Creek Bed & Breakfast. The North Carolina mountains have an abundance of wildlife, including several species of birds, as well as deer, racoons, fox, black bears, and more. We and our guests have been fortunate to capture some great wildlife photos this year. Enjoy the following photos taken just last month. Photos by us unless indicated otherwise (all others taken by our guests).

Butterfly on one of the coneflowers at the Inn on Mill Creek
Kingfisher getting a snack
Someone's happy to see our apples are now ripe [photo: Mikkel Riemann]
Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly [photo: Bill Campbell]
One of many stars of the bullfrog orchestra at the Inn [photo: Mikkel Riemann]
Cedar Waxwing in Old Fort, NC [photo: Mikkel Riemann]
Thanks for the birdseed, humans! [photo: Bob Bryer]
Gray Petaltail Dragonfly [photo: Bill Campbell]

Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue Ridge Parkway Hike: Mt. Mitchell Deep Gap Trail

Along the Deep Gap Trail, early October

If you have a visit to Mt. Mitchell State Park on your "getaway to the North Carolina mountains" to-do list, there's much more than just driving up, parking, and checking out the observation deck on the tallest peak in the eastern United States -- there are some great hiking trails there as well. So, pack a picnic lunch and some water, bring layers (daytime high temperatures can be in the 60s in the summertime there, cooler at other times of the year), and set out for a day outdoors.

The Black Mountains include Mt. Mitchell (just over 6,680 feet above sea level) and five of the other ten tallest peaks in the eastern U.S. The second highest peak, Mt. Craig, is about a mile away from Mt. Mitchell and not much shorter than it's neighbor, standing 6,647 feet tall. A rugged hiking trail called the Deep Gap Trail connects the two peaks, and actually goes a few miles further along the crest of the Black Mountains.

Starting at the picnic area on the summit of Mt. Mitchell, the Deep Gap Trail showcases the spruce and balsam fir trees that give the peaks above 6,000 feet that will make you feel like you are in southern Canada as opposed to the southern United States. Mt. Mitchell State Park is also home to diverse and endangered species of plants, so hikers are encouraged to tread lightly and stay on the trail.

Note that there are some steep sections along the Deep Gap Trail between Mt. Mitchell and Mt. Craig, and the hike is considered moderate-to-strenuous. In addition, the weather can "change on a dime" as we like to say, so just to be on the safe side, prepare for cool and warm temperatures, rain, sun, and wind. Rain clouds and fog can come in quickly, and leave just as quickly. Also, for your planning purposes, Mt. Mitchell State Park is typically closed to road traffic from November through April, when snow and ice is possible.

When you stay with us at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B, ask us about trail maps for Mt. Mitchell -- we have them!

Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 Sourwood Festival is Aug. 7-9

Photo Credit: Asheville Citizen-Times
One summer festival that our guests always look forward to is the Sourwood Festival in Black Mountain, NC, a charming small town located halfway between Asheville and the Inn on Mill Creek B&B. The Sourwood Festival has been going strong for almost 40 years, and is considered a highlight of summer in the mountains of western North Carolina.

The Sourwood Festival gets its name from a native tree -- the Sourwood -- and the honey that is produced from it. Not only does this free festival feature tons of arts and crafts, festival food, games for kids and local entertainment, but you can also buy sourwood honey and see honeybee demonstrations.

The 2015 Sourwood Festival takes place during the weekend of August 7-9. On Friday night is the Sourwood Idol talent show contest. Saturday and Sunday offer the opportunity to browse hundreds of arts and crafts vendors.

For more details, see www.sourwoodfestival.com.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

North Carolina Mountain Birds: Ovenbird

Ovenbird [Wikipedia]
For some reason, we feel like there's not enough love out there for the Ovenbird. When people think of warblers, they might think of those birds who have the word "warbler" in their names: Magnolian Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler...you get the picture. But the Ovenbird is like, "Hey, I'm a warbler, too!" So, to get this great bird the attention it deserves, we've reserved the July 2015 spot in our 12 Months of Birding at the Inn blog series.

The Ovenbird gets its name from the nest that it builds, which looks like an outdoor oven. It spends its summers in Pisgah National Forest around the Inn on Mill Creek B&B, arriving usually in mid-spring and then migrating back to its winter home in Central America and the Caribbean once the temperatures start cooling off at the end of summer. You can always tell the Ovenbird has arrived for its summer respite -- it has a very loud call that sounds like teaCHER! teaCHER! teaCHER! -- and they aren't terribly difficult to spot if you follow the sound and keep an eye out for them. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the Ovenbird this way:
"Ovenbirds are olive-green above and spotted below, with bold black-and-orange crown stripes. A white eyering gives it a somewhat surprised expression. Like several other terrestrial, or near-terrestrial, warblers, Ovenbirds have pink legs."
I mean, how can you miss a bird with pink legs?

Ovenbird [Audubon]
And back to that call of theirs: similar to a Vireo, the Ovenbird does not care if the afternoon gets warm; it's going to sing, sing, sing. So it might be one of the few birds that you hear in the mid-afternoon on a hot summer day (hot for us being about 84 degrees).

The best places to spot the Ovenbird at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B are the wooded border behind our apple orchard, in the brush that borders the north lawn, and in the woods at the south end of the property near the picnic table and the small stream. Don't just look up to the trees, either. Ovenbirds like to scoot along the forest floor foraging for insects. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology calls the Ovenbird's stroll, "herky jerky". So just watch for an olive-green bird with a dark-spotted chest and pink legs strutting around like Mick Jagger. Really, how does this bird not get more attention?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Art at the Inn: Norm Gill

Painting on slate by Norm Gill (Moonrise over Craggy Gardens)
We are proud to support the arts community in the Asheville area. At the Inn on Mill Creek B&B, you will see all kinds of artwork displayed (and for sale!) by local artists. From time to time, we also like to feature our artists on our blog. Norman Gill is one such artist.

Mixed media acrylic and oil by Norm Gill
Norm has been painting since grade school. He studied art at West Valley College in Saratoga, California, and at The University of California at Sacramento. Norm describes his style of painting as “Impressionistic Realism.” His primary subjects are landscapes, although he also enjoys painting flora and fauna. Oil and acrylics are used most frequently, as well as occasional watercolors, pastels, charcoal and even ink. The majority of Norm’s works are scenery around Western North Carolina, although he also enjoys painting seascapes, especially the rocky coastline of Northern California where he was raised and where most of his family still reside.

You can visit Norm’s Facebook page at facebook.com/ashevilleartistnormangill. Guests can also browse and buy his artwork at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B.