Central Virginia, 7/24-25/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

South on the Blue Ridge Parkway; July 24

I usually bird on the parkway between mile markers 0 and 14 (Reids Gap), but I didn't see many birds there a few days ago. Walt Childs and I decided to go south from Reids Gap to Yankee Ridge (mm. 34.5) and farther south, as we have had good birding luck there on previous trips during late spring. We saw lots of wildflowers and butterflies on the way there, but very few birds, and Yankee Ridge produced only a single Dark-eyed Junco, and we heard a Raven and a Chickadee.


Indigo Bunting on the way south


Wildflowers


Wildflowers


Wildflowers

We exited the parkway a mile or so south from there, and took a back road down to lower elevations. We stopped along the way when we saw some avian activity, and got our only warbler of the day - a Black-throated Green.


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler

We saw a pair of Downy Woodpeckers there; one of them had a very long bill, and it did a minor battle with another bird - probably a Pewee.


Downy Woodpecker


Downy Woodpecker

We ended the trip with only 24 avian species, including an Osprey at the Montebello trout pond on Route 56.


Female Eastern Towhee


Tufted Titmouse


Osprey

Rockfish Valley Trail; July 25

The Rockfish Valley Trail used to be a magnet for birds, and the south end of the Glenthorne Loop section of the trail along Reids creek was excellent for warblers. The east side of Reids Creek consisted of two privately-owned parcels that were left alone and overgrown with dense vegetation, creating excellent avian habitat. One of the trail volunteers would mow a path along the east side of the creek, so we could bird with the sun at our back during morning hours. All of this changed two years ago when the southernmost parcel was sold, and the new owners clear-cut the parcel, as well as prohibited birders from accessing their property. The number of avian species seen on the Rockfish Valley Trail was cut in half, or even worse, but I still go there about once a week, as it is close to home, and there can be unexpected birds on the trail. This summer, the only resident warblers there have been a few Common Yellowthroats and a pair of Yellow-breasted Chats.

With only so-so birding within a hour or so drive from my home, I decided to go to the trail this morning. There were lots of butterflies, and a few avian species. By the time I got to the southern end of Glenthorne Loop (west side of Reids Creek), I had only 19 avian species. The best birds at that point were a single Common Yellowthroat, a few Orchard Orioles, and a White-eyed Vireo. Dense vegetation made photography difficult.


Common Yellowthroat


Orchard Oriole

As I started my return hike, I stopped when I saw a few small birds foraging in the trees. The first one I saw clearly was a Worm-eating Warbler. I have seen this species only a few times on the trail in previous years, and only during migration. There were a couple of Red-eyed Vireos there as well.


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Red-eyed Vireo

And then a small bird caught my eye a few feet farther down the trail. It was a female Cerulean Warbler (first year female?), a species that has been reported on the trail at least once in previous years, and a species I see frequently on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but this is the first one I have seen on the trail.


Female Cerulean Warbler


Female Cerulean Warbler


Female Cerulean Warbler


Female Cerulean Warbler

As I headed west on the downstream trail on my way back to the parking lot, I saw a pair of American Redstarts, a species that sometimes shows up on the trail, but usually either in the bog area or at the southern end of Glenthorne Loop.


Female American Redstart


Female American Redstart


Female American Redstart

I ended my morning hike with 23 avian species on the trail. There were lots of swallowtail butterflies clustered along the banks of the Rockfish River. It seems a bit early, but I wonder if the autumn warbler migration has started?


Swallowtails


Swallowtail


Swallowtail


Grasshopper



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