Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia, 9/8/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

I got an early start this morning on the Rockfish Valley Trail. I wanted to try and re-locate the mourning Warbler I had seen there two days earlier. The trail wasn't very "birdy." I ended up with 15 avian species, but not a single warbler.


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

It was already hot, and a bit muggy, so I decided to check out my two favorite spots on the first 14 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We really need a good cool front to move through area to bring in more migrating birds, so I wasn't very optimisitic, but at least it would be cooler at the higher elevations.

My first stop was at the Hickory Springs Overlook (mm. 12). As soon as I parked and got out of my car, I heard a lot of birds about 100 feet north of the overlook. It was loaded with warblers! There was a mixed flock foraging, and I ended up with 11 warbler species at this one location. Some of them were very easy to identify.


Black-throated Green Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Tennessee Warbler


Bay-breasted Warbler


Bay-breasted Warbler


Bay-breasted Warbler


Bay-breasted Warbler


Bay-breasted Warbler


Bay-breasted Warbler


Bay-breasted Warbler


Cape May Warbler


Cape May Warbler


Cape May Warbler

Other warblers were not as easy to identify. Fall plumages, especially of young females, can present a challenge. I am fairly sure that the warbler shown below was a Magnolia Warbler, but it was lacking a complete eye-ring.


Magnolia Warbler

The next warbler was either a Nashville or a Mourning Warbler, but I am leaning toward Mourning because of its short tail.


Mourning/Nashville Warbler

Young female Blackpoll Warblers can be confused with other warbler species, but a good field mark for Blackpolls are yellow legs and feet, or on some young birds, dark legs with yellow feet. Spring female Blackpoll Warblers can show little or a lot of yellow (Click here to view a spring female Blackpoll Warbler). The next bird clearly shows the yellow feet, and I am fairly sure that it was a Blackpoll.


Blackpoll Warbler


Blackpoll Warbler


Blackpoll Warbler


Blackpoll Warbler


Blackpoll Warbler


Blackpoll Warbler

But look at the next two photos. It was the same Blackpoll Warbler as above, on the same branch, and photos taken only two seconds earlier. If I only had these two photos, I might have identified this bird as a young, pale, Cape May Warbler. Any comments on this bird?


Blackpoll Warbler


Blackpoll Warbler

There was a female American Redstart and a Northen Parula in this mixed flock.


Female American Redstart


Northen Parula


Northen Parula

The next warbler was in the same mixed flock. Its plumage colors made me think Northern Parula, but it was lacking wing bars and had the tail of an American Redstart. My reference books state that hybrid Northern Parula x American Redstart birds exist, but I haven't seen any photos of this hybrid mix. Do you think the bird I saw was a hybrid?


Northen Parula x American Redstart hybrid??

A few mintues after the mixed flock moved on, I was standing at the overlook reviewing some of the photos in my camera viewfinder, when I heard chip; chip. I looked up, and there was a beautiful male Black-throated Blue Warbler in the brush about five feet away from me. Of course, as soon as I lifted my camera for a photo, it had already seen me and was gone.

With 11 warbler species already on my day list, I wondered what I might find at my other favorite parkway spot - the cirque between mm. 7 and mm. 8. There were only a few birds there, but they included a small flock of Black-throated Green Warblers and a first fall female Black-throated Blue Warbler that had not yet developed a white patch at the base of its primaries.


Female Black-throated Blue Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler

When I got to the intersection of Route 610 near mm. 4, I pulled off and drove along 610 to the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch. I made one stop along the way where I saw a couple of Eastern Wood-Pewees, a Scarlet Tanager, and a Yellow-breasted Flycatcher.


Scarlet Tanager


Yellow-breasted Flycatcher

A pretty good birding day!



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