Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway 8/9/12

All photos are Marshall Faintich


As I eagerly await the beginning of the autumnal bird migration season, I decided to check out warbler sites on Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I started on Skyline Drive heading first to Moorman's River Overlook (mm 92, 2975 ft. elevation), and then worked my way back to the south end at mm 105.

I arrived at this overlook around 9:30. There were quite a few birds singing - American Goldfinches and Indigo Buntings. I saw a couple of Red-eyed Vireos, saw a Downy(?) Woodpecker, and am fairly sure that a bird I heard deep in the woods was a Black-billed Cuckoo. There were lots of flies there, and the new cedar-smelling bug spray I bought didn't do very much for keeping them from buzzing around my face.

A small bird flew into one of the trees, and my first thought was a Cape May Warbler because of its bright olive-green rump patch, but looking at the photo, I am not sure what it is - it appears to be undergoing some heavy-duty molt. I saw the back end of another bird there, and my best guess from this view is a White-breasted Nuthatch, but the white undertail with black tips is interesting.


Red-eyed Vireo


Cape May(?) Warbler


White-breasted Nuthatch

There were some American Goldfinches and Indigo Buntings at Beagle Gap, and more of them at McCormick Gap Overlook. I also saw some American Crows, Turkey Vultures, and a Red-tailed Hawk.


American Goldfinch


Monarch Butterfly


Male and female American Goldfinches

The north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway is one the best local areas for warblers, but may not be so good this autumn. I haven't been there since last spring, as I read that some major road work and overlook improvements were being made. I had hoped that all of this would be done by now, but there were roadwork crews all along the first 14 miles of the parkway, and most of the overlooks were closed.

My first stop was at one of my two favorite warbler sites - the cirque between mm 7 and 8. As this is not a designated overlook area, the only improvement I saw there was a new asphalt drainage ditch. However, there were no birds there, and I wondered if all the road work had driven the birds away??

I continued to my second favorite warbler site on the parkway - Hickory Springs Overlook at mm 12, but it was closed and a work crew and trucks were there. I continued south, and as I approached a small gravel pull-off area near mm 13, I saw a hawk flying overhead. I stopped and got out of my car. At first I thought the hawk was another Red-tailed, but I don't see even a faint patagial mark, so I think that it was a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk.


Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk


Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk

I stayed at this spot for about 1/2 hour, as there were some good birds there. I saw more American Goldfinches, an Indigo Bunting, and a Downy Woodpecker, and I heard a Pileated Wooodpecker, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, and an Eastern Towhee. I saw a couple of Red-eyed Vireos. A small bird poked its head out the canopy - it was a Blue-Headed Vireo that flew to another tree and was joined by a second one before they flew into the woods.


Downy Woodpecker


Blue-Headed Vireo


Blue-Headed Vireo


Blue-Headed Vireo



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