Rockfish Valley Trail 9/7/11

All photos are Marshall Faintich


Tropical Storm Lee has dumped more than 5 inches of rain here in the past two days, and more rain is forecast for later today. I have been chomping at the bit to get out to do some birding, and was hoping that the birds were also eager to be out. This morning was foggy, but no rain. When I arrived at the trail at 9:00, there was heavy fog and a light mist - not enough for me to feel it, but wet enough that I had to keep my camera covered as much as possible. Low spots in the trail had one to two inches of standing water.


Fog on the trail

Many of the birds were sitting on branches trying to dry out their feathers. By 9:30, a small patch opened up for some sunlight to shine through, and I caught a bright orange flash in a distant tree - a Baltimore Oriole. The complete fog cover returned, and at 10:00 the sun hung in the fog like a pale yellow orb. However, by 10:30, the fog started to lift. It was so humid that every time I lifted my camera to my eye to take a shot, the reduced air flow made my glasses fog up.


Baltimore Oriole


Red-shouldered Hawk with wet feathers


Red-shouldered Hawk doing some preening

I spent the better part of two hours mostly on Glenthorne Loop and a little bit on the eastern part of the downstream trail. Near the first wooden bridge I got a quick glimpse of a warbler - my best guess is a Nashville, but the photo is poor and I didn't see it very well.


Nashville(?) Warbler

At the edge of the bog area, I photographed an unusual flycatcher - it was mostly olive in color. Although I got a fairly long look at it, I could not see its breast or bill length very well. It was definitely an Empidonax flycatcher, and based on its yellowish throat (the part that I could see, and the bird's location at the edge of the bog area), I think that it was a juvenile/first winter Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Acadian is also a possibility, but they tend to stay within the forest canopy rather than on the edge of brushy vegetation. I would appreciate any comments, as this would be a new species for me.


Yellow-bellied(?) Flycatcher


Yellow-bellied(?) Flycatcher


Yellow-bellied(?) Flycatcher

I then saw a few birds flying low across the field on the east side of route 627. I hurried across the first wooden bridge to get a better look, but they were gone. One of them was a large, dark gray bird with bright white wing-tips - not black enough to be a Black Vulture, but I don't have a clue what it was. I ended up with 28 species this morning:

Eastern Bluebird
Indigo Bunting
American Crow
Field Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-shouldered Hawk
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Wood-Pewee
American Goldfinch
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Mockingbird
Rock Pigeon
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Great Blue Heron
Baltimore Oriole
Pileated Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Catbird
Scarlet Tanager
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Yellow-bellied(?) Flycatcher
Nashville(?) Warbler


Scarlet Tanager


Carolina Wren


Eastern Wood-Pewee

By the time I got home, the sun was out, and a Red-shouldered Hawk was circling above my house, and squawking at some crows that had pestered it.


Red-shouldered Hawk




Tim H. (VA): Based on these photos, I would tend to go with Yellow-bellied Flycatcher because the primary extension is definitely short for the Acadian closer to the right size for the YBFL, and the eye-ring is broad and distinct suggesting YBFL. This is a fabulous record, I have never actually seen one, though I have heard one once.

Walt C. (VA): It was indeed very wet today. I certainly don't qualify as an expert; however my vote is that the "Empidonax" is a Acadian Flycatcher based on my anticipated larger bill and the longer primary projection and the fall birds do have buffy wing bars. I think the only other consideration would be the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.

Dave P. (MO): . I believe that IS a Yellow Bellied Flycatcher. They love bogs and I have seen them in the summers in the bogs up in Northern Minnesota. They nest on the ground in bogs and I have searched for their nest but have never found one.



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