Blue Ridge Parkway, VA, 5/9/16

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Dark skies threatened rain all day, but the rain held off and I went up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in the afternoon to look for warblers. I started birding in December 2006, and I have spent a lot of time on the first 14 miles of the parkway every spring and autumn since 2007 looking for warblers. Although warblers can be found anywhere along the parkway, I have found three reliable hotspots to find warblers between the start of the parkway and Reids Gap (mm 14). My first stop was at Hickory Springs Overlook (mm 12). American Redstarts and Cerulean Warblers nest there, and all sorts of warblers can show up there. As soon as I parked my car, I heard an Ovenbird but could not locate it. But the American Redstarts and Cerulean Warblers were easy to find. A Hooded Warbler was singing loudly, making it an easy find as well.


Cerulean Warbler


Cerulean Warbler


American Redstart


Hooded Warbler

A Scarlet Tanager was singing from high on a tree limb, and a Blackburnian Warbler was viewable, but a bit far from the road.


Scarlet Tanager


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler

There were Eastern Towhees, Tufted Titmice, Turkey Vultures, and a woodpecker was drilling on a nearby tree. I was watching a pair of Dark-eyed Juncos foraging along the road in dense vegetation that was a foot or so tall, when a grayish bird with whitish wing bars joined them. I couldn't get a good look at this new bird, but felt confident that it was a warbler, but could not identify it. It wasn't until I processed photos of this warbler that I could see some bluish-green tones that looked gray under the dark skies. I am almost sure that it was a female Cerulean Warbler, but they are usually high up in the trees, and not on the ground. Perhaps it was gathering nesting materials? If anyone has another idea as to what it might have been, please let me know.


Dark-eyed Junco


Female Cerulean Warbler?


Female Cerulean Warbler?

My next stop was at the large cirque between mm 7 and mm 8. All sorts of warblers can show up there, but I was looking for Canada Warblers. There is a "curved road" sign at the upper (south) end of the cirque, and Canada Warblers are in the vegetation right at that sign for a couple of weeks in May - every year! They weren't there a week ago, but today they did not disappoint me. I parked a little ways south of the sign, and when I got to the road sign, there it was.


Canada Warbler


Canada Warbler


Canada Warbler


Canada Warbler


Canada Warbler


Canada Warbler


Canada Warbler

Before I left the cirque, I saw more American Redstarts and Cerulean Warblers.


Cerulean Warbler

I made a short stop at the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center where I heard more Cerulean Warblers, but didn't try to locate them. It was getting late in the afternoon, and I still wanted to get to my third warbler hotspot before it got too dark or started to rain. The Rockfish Valley Overlook (mm 2) is a good spot for Cerulean Warblers and American Redstarts, and Kentucky Warblers nest in the dense vegetation going up the hill on the west side of the parkway. They weren't there last week, but if the Canada Warblers had arrived, perhaps the Kentucky Warblers were there as well. But when I got to the overlook, I was disappointed. Six workmen with chain saws were cutting down the vegetation on the east side of the overlook, and I could barely hear anything over the noise. I walked a short distance away from the overlook, heard Cerulean Warblers, saw an American Redstart, and I think that I heard and briefly saw a Kentucky Warbler, but couldn't be sure. Bummers!

I continued north on the parkway, and decided to stop at a small pull-off area between mm 2 and mm 1. The vegetation is similar to that at the mm 2 overlook, but not quite as good for Kentucky Warblers as the vegetation at the overlook. But perhaps all the noise and commotion at the overlook had driven some Kentucky Warblers from their usual area. Sure enough, one was there.


Kentucky Warbler


Kentucky Warbler


Kentucky Warbler


Kentucky Warbler


Kentucky Warbler


Kentucky Warbler


Kentucky Warbler


Kentucky Warbler



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