Highland and Augusta Counties 5/15/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

With high temperatures forecasted in the 90's for today, I headed to higher elevations to do some birding. My first stop was at Ramsey's Draft off of route 250. There weren't a lot of birds there mid-morning. I heard one warbler that I could not identify, and got a quick look at another warbler that looked like it may have been a Blackpoll.

Next stop was at a friend's place on Cowpasture Road, where I saw Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers last summer, and hoped for a repeat performance. The trees have not leafed out as much there as they have here in the Rockfish Valley, and I couldn't find any of these rarer warblers. There were qute a few common avian species flying about, and the dense brush was a good foraging location for three warbler species that I did see: Worm-eating, Magnolia, and a first summer male American Redstart.


Red-eyed Vireo


Red-eyed Vireo with raised crown - I have never seen a RE Vireo do this before


Brown Thrasher


Carolina Wren with a very long tail


First summer male American Redstart


First summer male American Redstart


First summer male American Redstart


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Magnolia Warbler


Patriotic Eastern Phoebe

From there, I made my way back up to the top of the mountain and stopped at the Confederate Breastworks. I took the trail that starts across route 250, and as soon as I got there I saw a pair of Blackburnian Warblers in a dense coniferous tree. This is one species that I have been trying without success to get a good photo of a brilliantly colored male, and today was no exception. I never did get a clear view of either bird in good sunlight.


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler

I stopped again at Ramsey's Draft on the way back, but only saw a Phobe and a few Goldfinches. I tried birding along Bell's Lane in Staunton, but not very many birds were out in the afternoon heat. So I headed over to Sherando Lake to see what might be there, and only found a lone Common Loon.


Common Loon

From Sherando Lake, I headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway via Reids Gap. At first, all I saw were Indigo Buntings, Eastern Towhees, and a Broad-winged Hawk.


Indigo Bunting


Eastern Towhee

I stopped at Hickory Springs overlook (mile marker 12), and had the highlight of my day's trip. I saw a few male American Redstarts and heard a Cerulean Warbler. Just as I was getting ready to get back into my car, I saw a female American Redstart land on a tree branch that was about 15 feet above the ground, and almost directly above the picnic table there - a foot or two closer to the parkway than the picnic table. She was building her nest. She made multiple trips to and from the nest, each time sitting in it in a different position to see how it felt, and was making minor adjustments to it. The nest was too high off the ground for me to see if there were any eggs in it, but the nest should be easy for anyone to find, and perhaps we can see some little ones there in the future.


Male American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Female American Redstart

My last stop was at the cirque between mile markers 7 and 8. There were more American Redstarts, and a Worm-eating Warbler was foraging and singing high up in one of the trees.


Male American Redstart


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler



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