Highland and Augusta Counties, VA 6/20/12

All photos are Marshall Faintich


It was very hot today, with highs in the mid- to upper 90s, and high humidity. Walt Childs and I headed first for Cowpasture Rd. in Highland County, where there were recent reports of Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers. Thanks to the birders who sent me directions and coordinates, as we ended up at the exact location described by the birders who had recently been there.

Walt and I met the owner of the green house at that location, chatted with him a bit, and he let us park on his property while we birded down the road. He invited us to come back whenever we wanted to, and also asked for a complimentary copy of my book when we came back. So I guess there is a parking fee for leaving our car there!

We saw lots of typical woodland species. Most were easy to identify, but a few were problemmatic. Most of the birds we saw were on the east side of the road, in the dark shadows of dense tree canopies, with open areas of very bright sunlight poking through the shadowed areas. The high contrast made photography a real challenge.


Black-capped Chickadee


Eastern Phoebe


Tufted Titmouse


Flicker


Female Orchard Oriole


Immature Indigo Bunting


Red-tailed Hawk


Black Ratsnake

I saw one vireo, and think that it is most likely a Philadelphia Vireo. It had a short bill, dark wedge-shaped lores that point toward the bill, white flanks, and a hint of yellow wash on its breast.


Philadelphia Vireo


Philadelphia Vireo

I got one poor photo of a bird that I think is an immature Eastern Wood-Pewee, and I did hear a Pewee in the area.


Immature Eastern Wood-Pewee?

And yes, we did see warblers. In addition to an American Redstart, we had a very cooperative adult Blue-winged Warbler, and a first year male Blue-winged Warbler. The Golden-winged Warbler was a bit more elusive, but I did see one in the dark shadows that shows dark auricular and throat patches, and in a nearby tree, another (female?) Golden-winged Warbler that had a very light gray throat patch that may have been washed out in the photo by the bright sunlight, or perhaps it was a Brewster's hybrid.


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Blue-winged Warbler


Blue-winged Warbler


Blue-winged Warbler


Blue-winged Warbler


Blue-winged Warbler


Blue-winged Warbler


Blue-winged Warbler


Blue-winged Warbler


First year male Blue-winged Warbler


First year male Blue-winged Warbler

Our next stop was the hiking trail across route 250 from the Confederate Breastworks. Our target bird there was a Red Crossbill. As soon as we parked the car, I played the Red Crossbill song from my Ipod Touch app, and immediately had three birds responding with the same song. One was right in front of us somewhere in a dense pine tree. After a few repeated calls back and forth, we saw one of the birds between the branches fly up along the trunk of the pine tree. There wasn't enough time to get a photo, but the visual sighting was a new life bird for me.

Our last stop was the Swoope area in Augusta County. Did I mention that it was hot? !! A few birds were out and about or sitting on wires or fence posts, but most of them were keeping cool in dense vegetation, or splashing in water wherever they could find some. We saw some of the same species we had seen in Highland County, and added another nine species to bring our trip total to 47 avian species for the day.


Common Grackle


Common Grackle


Female Blue Grosbeak


Mourning Dove


Willow Flycatcher


Grasshopper Sparrow


Grasshopper Sparrow

Today's List (47 species):
Wood Duck
Turkey Vulture
American Kestrel
Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Flicker
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Wood-Pewee
American Crow
Barn Swallow
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue Grosbeak
Carolina Wren
Black-capped Chickadee
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Cedar Waxwing
Starling
Blue Jay
Philadelphia Vireo
Golden-winged Warbler
Blue-inged Warbler
American Redstart
Northern Cardinal
Yellow(?)-billed Cuckoo
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
House Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Orchard Oriole
Eastern Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Red Crossbill


(Greg M.; VA): Glad you found the spot! Very interesting shot of the male GW Warbler. Appears it has no black bib. I've heard that there is an unusual hybrid variation w/ this characteristic. I've never seen one like that! Those first two GWs look like definite GW females.

I'm pretty sure the photo with the (?) is a female B&W Warbler rather than a Pewee. I saw one at the same spot. Also, the vireo is almost certainly a Red-Eyed. Philadelphias this time of year are in Canada or the extreme northern parts of NY/NE. I also think the last two shots are Orchard Oriole females (or young) rather than BW Warblers. The bill and yellow undertail coverts tell the tale on that one.

Really nice shots of those BW Warblers. Almost all of mine turned out poorly due to the tricky light. Great Grasshopper Sparrow too!



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