Blue Ridge 9/2-3/14

All photos are Marshall Faintich

September 2, 2014

Southerly winds have brought hot and muggy weather to Virginia. Migrating warblers have been spotty at best for the past couple of weeks, and I suspect that many of them are waiting for cooler temperatures and northerly winds to push them our way.

Walt Childs and I decided to make a quick stop at the Rockfish Valley Trail, and then head up to higher and cooler elevations on the Blue Ridge Mountains, and head north to look for warblers. I picked up Walt at his house here in the Stoney Creek section of Wintergreen around 9:00, and were at the nearby RV trail in less than ten minutes. I parked just off route 627 on the east side of Reids Creek, and as we walked to the first wooden bridge, a pair of Sharp-shinned Hawks flew north over the fields. Crows were having a fit, making a racket and flying about.


Sharp-shinned Hawk

As soon as we crossed the bridge, a Cooper's Hawk flew to the south, and the Crows were not happy to have raptors in their territory.


Rockfish Valley Trail Hawk Watch

We hiked on the trail for about half an hour, logged 16 avian species, and headed to cooler temperatures. It was already in the low 80s. We made a quick stop up on Wintergreen Mountain (Blackrock and Devils Knob), didn't see many birds there, and went up route 664 to the Blue Ridge Parkway (mm14). We made stops at my two favorite warblers sites on the north end of the parkway. There were some good birds at Hickory Springs overlook (mm12), including a Baltimore Oriole, and three warbler species: Worm-eating, Blackburnian, and American Redstart.


Baltimore Oriole


Worm-eating Warbler


Female American Redstart


Blackburnian Warbler

A quick drive around the Humpback Rocks park and at my other favorite stop, the cirque between mm. 7 and mm. 8, did not produce many birds, although we did see a Red-tailed Hawk and a Raven along the drive. We decided to head up to Pocasin Cabin just off Skyline Drive, about 5 miles north of the route 33 entrance. It was a long drive to get there, but we have had some limited warbler success there before, and other birders have sometimes found it to be a warbler "hot spot." The temperature was in the mid-70's at that elevation, but we decided to take the Shenandoah Valley, route 340, to route 33, instead of taking the much slower route all the way on Skyline Drive.

As we headed just north of Waynesboro, we saw two Broad-winged Hawks flying south - our fourth hawk species of the morning. We made a quick detour along the river just south of the Merck plant to see if there might be any migrating shore birds on the sod farm, but only saw some Killdeers there. It wasn't even noon yet, and the temperature was already 93 degrees in the valley.

After a short lunch break, We arrived at Pocasion Cabin around 12:30. Thre were lots of woodland birds there, a huge number of flies/gnats in our faces everywhere we hiked, and a good mixed flock of warblers: Blackburnian, Tennessee, Black and White, Chestnut-sided, Ovenbird, Magnolia, and Black-throated Green, giving us nine warbler species for the trip. We also saw an unidentified warbler that might have been a female Bay-breasted, but I did not count that species, and a couple of photos are of it are shown below.


Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Black and White Warbler


Black and White Warbler


Tennessee Warbler


Tennessee Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Magnolia Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Bay Breasted(?) Warbler


Millipede

We ended up with about 40 avian species. And 9, or possible 10, warbler species made for a good trip.

September 3, 2014

It rained a bit overnight, and the early morning hours were a bit cooler. I had some time, and went back to the Rockfish Valley Trail for a short hike. I got there at 8:45, and the temperature was in the lower 70's. There was a lot of activity there - birds were everywhere foraging for breakfast.


Great Blue Heron fishing in the Rockfish River


Great Blue Heron fishing in the Rockfish River


Chipping Sparrow bringing breakfast to junior

Near the picnic table on the downstream trail, I got my 10th warbler species in less than 24 hours.


Common Yellowthroat


Common Yellowthroat


Common Yellowthroat


Common Yellowthroat

Many of the warbler photos posted on this page were taken in deep shadows and are a bit grainy. If you like to see warbler photos, I invite you to visit my warbler photo pages:

Click here to go to my warbler photo pages


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