Rockfish Valley Trail and Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch 8/17/10

I was able to get an early start this morning, and made it to the Rockfish Valley Trail main kiosk at 7:45. Mostly sunny, with some light fog, temperature in the mid-70s and fairly high humidity. There wasn't much wind - we have a stationary front right now over central Virginia.

There really wasn't a lot of bird activity until about 8:00 to 8:15 when the light fog was burnt off by the higher sun. Although I started an hour earlier than yesterday, I only logged 17 species on the trail compared to 25 yesterday, so the earlier start didn't help much. Maybe an early start will help when the migrating birds are passing through.

When I got to the first wooden bridge on Glenthorne Loop, I decided to cross it and walk the other side of Reids Creek, as the early sun would be at my back instead of in my eyes. The knee to waist high, wet grasses and weeds soon water-logged my boots and socks. As I sloshed through the vegetation, the water on my calves and knees helped to keep me cool, but I would have preferred hot and dry. I keep hoping that either my bug spray would not be washed off of my legs, or perhaps the tick season was over - as far as I can tell, one or both was true, as this is the first time in a while that I did not pull at least one tick off of my socks or legs from that side of Reids Creek.

The National Audubon Society lists the Field Sparrow as one of the top 10 common birds in decline - not so on the Rockfish Valley Trail. There were lots of Field Sparrows in several stages of development and molt from young juveniles to adults. Also saw juvenile Blue Grosbeaks, Chipping Sparrows, and Bluebirds.

juvenile Field Sparrow

Field Sparrows

juvenile Field Sparrow

juvenile Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Wood-Pewee

juvenile Chipping Sparrow

As I approached the second wooden bridge, I heard crows making a racket, and sure enough, they were harassing a pair of Red-tailed Hawks at the southern end of the loop near route 151. As I walked across the field to get closer, one of them flew away, but the other one stayed and let me get a little closer.

Red-tailed Hawk

I walked back to the kiosk, and took the upstream trail - as I approached the end of the fenced field, a Red-shouldered Hawk flew toward the hills behind Elk Hill Farm. I left at 9:45, stopped off at home to change into dry socks and shoes, grabbed some food and a folding chair, and headed off to the Hawk Watch on Afton Mountain.

Red-shouldered Hawk

I got there a little before 11:00, and stayed until 1:00. The temperature was about 80, and there was a light wind that was coming from the south, with an occasional breeze from the east. The only raptors I saw were a few adult and juvenile Turkey Vultures, and also some Goldfinches, Chimney Swifts, American Crows, a Mockingbird, and either an Eastern Towhee or a Rose-breasted Grosbeak - only got a quick view of it - heard a call that sounded like a Towhee, but the quick visual looked like a Grosbeak. It is early in the hawk migration season, and the stationary front and southerly winds didn't help.

Maybe next time.

juvenile Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

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