Highland County, VA 6/4/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Although Walt Childs and I saw almost 50 avian species today, the number of species was secondary to our target objectives. I had previously taken a few fall, non-breeding plumage photos and a few poor quality, breeding plumage photos of Mourning Warblers, and wanted to get a good breeding plumage photo of this species. In addition, the photos I had taken of Golden-winged Warblers were strongly backlit, and I wanted to improve on this species as well. It was possible to meet both objectives in the Allegheny Mountains in Highland County near the West Virginia border. Both of these species are tough to find, and even more difficult to photograph.

Paddy Knob

Paddy Knob has been a fairly reliable place to find Mourning Warblers. Walt and I made a trip there late last summer, and had arrived mid-morning, but Mourning Warblers were not singing much that late in the breeding season, and we didn't hear or see any. Recent reports of hearing and seeing Mourning Warblers there during the early morning hours prompted us to try again, but this time we started out early on the 2+ hour drive from Nellysford, and arrived at Forest Road 55 off of Route 84 about 9:00 a.m. This forest road runs up onto Paddy Knob, and closely approximates the state line between Virginia and West Virginia.

I thought that I heard a Mourning Warbler in the woods as soon as we turned onto FR 55, but we decided to go straight to the primary Mourning Warbler locations higher up, and only stop near the base on the way down if we were unsuccessful. Our first stop was at a poorly mowed gravel and dirt road that lead to a circular path. We saw American Redstarts, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and a Wild Turkey there, but no Mourning Warblers, so we headed to the second location farther down the road. Along the way we saw more American Redstarts and Chestnut-sided Warblers, a Black and White Warbler, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and some Cedar Waxwings.


Paddy Knob sites


American Redstart


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Black and White Warbler

Walt waited in the car near the start of site #2, while I walked down the road looking and listening for a Mourning Warbler. Just past the small pull-off from the road (arrow on image), I heard a Mourning Warbler singing in a nearby tree, and was able to locate it.


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler

The Mourning Warbler caught some sort of fly, but either it didn't taste very good or it wiggled free.


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler

This bug tasted better.


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler


Mourning Warbler

With one success under our belts, we headed to Blue Grass Valley and up Wimer Road to where we knew that Golden-winged Warblers were nesting. After arriving, we soon saw Barn Swallows, House Wrens, a Willow Flycatcher, American Goldfinches, Song Sparrows, and some American Robins.


Willow Flycatcher


Juvenile American Robin


Song Sparrow

After a bit of searching, I heard a buzzy chip in the dense vegetation, and then a male Golden-winged Warbler popped up and foraged in the brush and trees on both sides of the path where we were hiking.


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler


Golden-winged Warbler

With both objectives met, we cruised around the area to see what else might be there. We saw another Chestnut-sided Warbler, a few Bobolinks, and some more species that we had not seen earlier in the day.


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Bobolink


Bobolink


Bobolink



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