Rockfish Valley Trail 6/24/11

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Some mornings on the trail prove to be very interesting. Today's hike had many firsts for me. I arrived at the trail this morning at 9:00, and stayed on Glenthorne Loop until 10:45. There was quite a bit of avian activity all morning. I did not expect to see any new species, but some of the usual summer birds put on quite a show.

Turkey Vultures

The first thing I noticed was a kettle of about 20 vultures - not that this was unusual. However, a pair of small birds, probably Eastern Kingbirds, were attacking individual vultures at the outside of the kettle - one small bird on one vulture. Each time a vulture was attacked, it moved farther to the south. After a few minutes these two birds had moved the entire kettle a good 100 feet or more, and the vultures finally broke up the kettle and formed a new one much farther away. I don't know what the small birds were protecting. I have seen a Crow go after a vulture before, but this is the first time I have ever seen a couple of small birds take on an entire kettle.

Turkey Vulture under attack

There were many of the usual summer birds on the trail. One of the Eastern Phoebes I saw had the darkest breast band I have ever seen on a Phoebe. There were four Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers in a single tree - two of them looked to be juveniles, and this is the first time I have seen a family of this species in one location.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Indigo Bunting

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Field Sparrow

I may have had a quick glimpse of a White-eyed Vireo and a female Common Yellowthroat, but they flew into the deep vegetation too quickly for me to be sure. The highlight of the morning was the number of Orchard Orioles I saw. On the east side of Reids Creek, I saw an adult male, and a first summer male getting its adult plumage, so perhaps this is its second summer. This is the first time I have seen one in this stage of development.

Orchard Oriole getting its adult plumage

Adult male Orchard Oriole

I crossed over the first wooden bridge to the west side of Reids Creek, and in the large tree directly in front of me sat four Orchard Orioles. A first summer male, an adult male, a female with brown on her crown (the one I have seen the past few days), and another female. The adult male then decided to shoo away the first summer male. First time I have seen more than two Orchard Orioles together.

Female Orchard Oriole

First summer male Orchard Oriole

Female Orchard Oriole

Adult male and first summer male Orchard Oriole

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