Rockfish Valley Trail 5/22/11

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Every once in a while, I am rewarded for my volunteering in the community. Sometimes it is getting to see a new life species; at other times I am lucky enough to get to take a book photo, a term that I use for a photo used in my book, A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Wintergreen, or a photo that might be used in a future book of mine. Today was such a day.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. I had been chomping at the bit since last winter to photograph warblers this spring. There are 6 of the 36 local warbler species that I have never seen, and another 5 for which I really wanted to get better photos. Of this list, I have only managed to getter better photos of one of the latter five - a Canada Warbler. It has been so rainy this month that most of the migrating warbler season was a washout. Yesterday I tried unsuccessfully to see and photograph a reported Mourning Warbler at Mint Springs Park. My plan for this morning was to head up to my favorite spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway to look for warblers.

Yesterday afternoon I got an e-mail that a short test area was mowed on the Rockfish Valley Trail for a potential new trail section, and my opinion for this new path and where it might lead for good birding was needed. As the senior birding activitiy manager for the trail, I was torn between warblers on the parkway and checking out the trail. I decided to go to the trail. After spending a good amount of time looking at the new trail possibilites, and I headed over to the Glenthorne Loop trail section - perhaps some warblers might be there. Right off the bat I was greeted by an Eastern Black Ratsnake basking in the early morning sunlight - half of it was in the grass and its back half was on the first wooden bridge. It was more interested in the sunlight than me, so I was able to get a couple of close-up photos.

Eastern Black Ratsnake

If you look closely at the spherical reflection in its eye, you can see the surrounding grasses, and the central vertical spike is my silhouette against the morning sky.

Eastern Black Ratsnake

Farther down the trail I saw some of the usual avian species - Cardinals, Field and Chipping Sparrows, Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Kingbirds, a first summer male Orchard Oriole, and others. It was good to see a male and a female Blue-gray Gnatcatcher foraging together in a tree - I know that this species has been on the trail for several weeks, but I haven't seen any for a few weeks.

Female Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Male Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

And then I got lucky. One of my favorite birds is the White-eyed Vireo, and I have seen them every year on the trail. They don't seem to be afraid of me, and sometimes come fairly close to see who is there. Today my little friend thought that some good photos of him would make for a nice portfolio, and he posed for quite a long time in a couple of locations for me. I was only about 15 feet away. These photos were my reward. I hope you enjoy the few of them that are posted here.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

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