Blue Ridge Parkway, VA 5/5/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

It was a bright and sunny morning, and I had intended to go birding then, but our local cable internet provider changed their e-mail system, and I spent the entire morning getting our desktop and mobile e-mail systems working. By the afternoon, it was very hot, and it clouded up later in the afternoon with isolated storms.

Brenda Tekin had posted that a Western Tanager had beeing coming to her bird feeder in Stuart's Draft, and she told birders that if they wanted to see this rare visitor, to watch from the street as she has a high privacy fence around her yard. I arrived in the early afternoon, and spent almost an hour there. I heard the Western Tanager singing several times from deep in the trees, but was never able to locate it. Bummers!

My next objective was to see how warblers were doing on the first 14 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a great location for warblers. I don't know if the following is a universal truth, but in my experience, migrating warblers travel at night, and it seems that they are foraging for a meal in the morning hours, and then resting in the afternoon before moving on. But nesting and breeding warblers are out all day, singing for mates, building nests, and foraging for food. I didn't expect to see many of the warblers passing through the area this afternoon.

During the past eight years, I have spent a lot of time on this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway looking for spring and fall migrating warblers. Although anywhere on the parkway has good possiblilties for seeing warblers, I have found two locations that are exceptionally good. The first one is Hickory Springs overlook, just north of mm. 12. Searching 100 to 200 yards north and south of the overlook often produces lots of warblers and other birds, although many of the trees and vegetation are 50 to 100 feet away, and some of the sightings are a bit distant for good photos. Cerulean Warblers have nested every year just to the north of the overlook.

The other location is a large cirque (natural curve in the mountain) between mm. 7 and mm. 8. There is a large rock outcropping in the middle of the curve. This location sometimes produces many warblers - I have seen as many as seven warbler species at one time near the south (higher elevation) end of the curve. Canada Warblers have been at the south end near a (curve) road sign every May. Although there is no formal overlook there, there is enough room to park three or maybe four cars off the road near the south end on either side of the road sign. If you park there, be very careful as other cars may come around the bend at fairly high speeds.


Cirque

Another good place to look for warblers is at the Rockfish Valley Overlook at mm. 2. I usually see Cerulean Warblers there, as well as Kentucky Warblers, and I suspect that both species nest nearby. So I stopped at this location after leaving Stuart's Draft, and saw a male and a female Cerulean Warbler.


Female Cerulean Warbler

My next stop was at the cirque. There were lots of birds singing. Many of them were common woodland birds: Eastern Phoebe, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Towhee, Dark-eyed Junco, Indigo Bunting, etc. I didn't see or hear any Canada Warblers, but there was a very cooperative male Cerulean Warbler.


Male Cerulean Warbler


Male Cerulean Warbler


Male Cerulean Warbler


Male Cerulean Warbler


Male Cerulean Warbler


Male Cerulean Warbler

A Black and White Warbler was also singing.


Black and White Warbler


Black and White Warbler


Black and White Warbler


Black and White Warbler

Another singing species was Scarlet Tanager.


Scarlet Tanager


Scarlet Tanager


Scarlet Tanager

Before leaving this stop, I watched a pair of American Redstarts.


Male American Redstart


Male American Redstart


Male American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Female American Redstart

My last stop was at Hickory Springs Overlook. The vegetation had not bloomed as much as at the lower elevation stops, but there were birds there as well. It was getting late, and the dark clouds were moving in. I saw a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Swainson's Thrush, Red-eyed Vireos, and more American Redstarts. I didn't see or hear any Cerulean Warblers there, but they should be near this overlook within a week or so.


Swainson's Thrush


Yellow-rumped Warbler


Yellow-rumped Warbler


Red-eyed Vireo


Male American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Male and Female American Redstart



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