Blue Ridge 9/12/14

All photos are Marshall Faintich

I had hoped that last night's rain and cold front would make for a good birding day, with lots of migrating warblers moving through the area. But I awoke to light drizzle and completely overcast skies. I first went to the Rockfish Valley Trail, as the Blue Ridge Mountains were shrouded in fog and clouds.

The trail wasn't very "birdy." Although I did see 17 avian species, I saw less than 50 birds altogether in about an hour.


Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Indigo Bunting


Belted Kingfisher

The winds were still coming in from the northeast, and the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains appeared darker than skies to the west, so I decided to head up to my favorite sites on the first 14 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. When I got to my first stop, Hickory Ridge Overlook, it was apparent that the fog had just lifted a bit, but there were only a few birds - Eastern Towhees and American Goldfinches. I saw a few sparrows mixed in with the Goldfinches - they were Lincoln's Sparrows! I had never seen this species at this high elevation before.


Lincoln's Sparrow

The next couple of sites produced very few birds at all, so I got off the parkway near mm. 3 and onto route 610 going north and paralleling the parkway. Part way down route 610, I heard some good bird activity, so I pulled over. There were lots of woodland birds moving about: Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, and Eastern Towhee.


Downy Woodpecker


Female Eastern Towhee and junior

I looked though a sparse tree line from the road, and there was a lot of activity in the trees on the far side of a utility line cut through. These birds were about a 100 feet away, but I saw some warblers! It would have been easy enough to get closer, but there was a no tresspassing sign at the entrance to the line cut, so I had to watch and take photos from farther away than I would have liked. But I saw lots of warbler species: Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Tennessee, Canada, Chestnut-sided, Common Yellowthroat, and Nashville (most likely - read farther down.)


Magnolia Warblers


Magnolia Warbler


Magnolia Warbler


Black-throated Blue Warbler


Canada Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Tennessee Warbler


Common Yellowthroat

The Nashville Warbler was interesting. It had a well defined hood, and I considered the possibility of its being a Connecticut as I couldn't tell the color of its throat, but an underside photo showed a white vent area and an undertail that looks more like a Nashville.


Nashville Warbler


Nashville Warbler

Two of the Tennessee Warblers were also interesting. One of them had some orangish coloring on its forehead, and white spots on its outer tail feathers. The undertail is clearly white, ruling out an Orange-crowned Warbler, but two of my warbler references do not mention the white outer tail spots, although the new Stephenson and White warbler book shows two different undertail patterns, the second having some white, but doesn't describe the second pattern.


Tennessee Warbler


Tennessee Warbler


Tennessee Warbler

The other Tennessee Warbler shows a considerable dark, almost black, area on its crown, and I can't find any references that describe this plumage feature on a Tennessee Warbler.


Tennessee Warbler


Tennessee Warbler


Tennessee Warbler

Any comments on either of these Tennessee Warblers and the Nashville Warbler would be appreciated. A good number of these birds flew high over my head and into the trees and shrubs near the parkway. I marked the route 610 spot on my car GPS, and got back onto the parkway, stopping adjacent to the route 610 spot - turned out the be at the Shenandoah Valley Overlook near mm. 3. I saw some of the same warbler species there, but also two more: Black-throated Green and Bay-breasted, bringing my warbler total to nine species in that one location.


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Bay-breasted Warbler

Nine warbler species in one outing would be a very good birding trip, but I wasn't done yet. I had some errands to run in Waynesboro, so I went over to Ridgeview Park. There were a lot of birds there in the wooded area, but other than a Magnolia Warbler, all I saw were woodland birds.


Red-bellied Woodpecker


First year and adult Northern cardinals

An then I saw an Ovenbird, warbler number 10 for the day. A little farther down the trail, I saw lots of warblers again - a lot closer than on route 610, but it was still dark for photography because of the cloudy skies. I added two more warbler species for the day: Hooded and American Redstart.


Ovenbird


Hooded Warbler


Hooded Warbler


Hooded Warbler


Female American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Magnolia Warblers


Magnolia Warbler


Female Black-throated Blue Warbler

It was a good birding day for me!



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