Blue Ridge Parkway 9/13/11

All photos are Marshall Faintich


My plan for today was to start out on the Blue Ridge Parkway looking for warblers, and then to head over to the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch. With winds changing from southerly to the northwest, I hoped that migrating birds would be heading our way.

At 9:30, I got to my first stop on the parkway, the cirque between mile markers 7 and 8 - one of my favorite warbler sites, but there were very few birds there. I saw an animal (larger than a squirrel) scurrying through the dense ground vegetation, but could not see what it was. A minute later I heard a noise below where I was standing that could have only been made by a large animal. I looked, but could not see anything. However, this is a good spot for bears, so I decided to go to my other warbler site, Hickory Springs overlook.

There was a lot of avian activity at this overlook. Eastern Wood-Pewee, Pileated Woodpecker, American Goldfinch, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Turkey Vulture, Carolina Wren, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, American Crow, and three warblers: Cape May, Cerulean, and what I think was a juvenile Black-throated Blue. There was good birding until 10:30 in the morning, and then it quieted down.


Carolina Wren


Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Scarlet Tanager


Cape May Warbler


Cerulean Warbler


Juvenile Black-throated Blue Warbler

Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch 9/13/11

With only "so-so" success looking for warblers, I hoped that the hawk watch would be better - and I was not disappointed. I stayed until 3:30 in the afternoon, saw 200+ Broad-winged Hawks; a few Ospreys; Red-tailed, Sharp-shinned, and Cooper's Hawks; a female American Kestrel; and a Northern Harrier. Most of these birds were distant, but a few came close to us.


Broad-winged Hawk


Broad-winged Hawk


Broad-winged Hawk


Osprey


Juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk


Juvenile Cooper's Hawk


Female American Kestrel

There were a few non-raptors, and I must be a spider magnet, because the wolf spider that was near my chair the other day came by to say hello again.


Chimney Swift


Wolf Spider


Wolf Spider

But with all of the above, there remains two special highlights of the day. The first was in late morning. We watched a Bald Eagle circling at eye level far away over Waynesboro in the Shenandoah Valley. After a few minutes it headed our way, came right up through the Rockfish Gap, and then headed down the Rockfish Valley.


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle

The second highlight came later in the afternoon, when the first of two Peregrine Falcons flew overhead. The first one, a juvenile, engaged in aerial combat with a Common Raven, and then circled above us for about five minutes.


Peregrine Falcon


Peregrine Falcon


Peregrine Falcon


Peregrine Falcon


Peregrine Falcon


Peregrine Falcon



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