Rockingham and Augusta Counties, VA, 5/16/16

All photos are Marshall Faintich

It was a beautiful day for birding - sunny, bright, and cool temperatures. It was in the 30s early this morning, and only got up into the low 60s this afternoon. The only problem was that there were very few birds to see; well, at least for most of the outing.

I had read reports of multiple warbler species the last few days in Hillandale Park in Harrisonburg, and had never been to that park before, so I decided to give it a try. It's an hour drive from where I live, but I was looking forward to exploring a new site and seeing all the warblers. I hiked there for about an hour and only saw 11 avian species, including only a single warbler - sounded like a Blackpoll and I only got a quick glimpse as it flew from high up in the trees. I did see one Emipodnax Flycatcher, but as it wasn't singing, I can't say for sure which specific species, although I would guess Willow because of the low and wet habitat where it was foraging.


Emipodnax Flycatcher

Since I was already close to Route 33, I drove farther north and west to Switzer Dam, where some good warblers had been reported during the past few weeks. The road down to the dam was in terrible shape; not sure if I didn't remember how bad it was, or it had gotten worse since I had been there last year. I saw very few birds there, and could only positively identify four species, including a lone American Redstart.


American Redstart and Scarlet Tanager

I made a stop at Riven Rock Park on the way back on Route 33, and saw one Chipping Sparrow and heard one Pileated Woodpecker. This was starting to get frustrating. I decided to head south, and stopped at Paul State Forest. Again, no warblers, but I did see one Gray-cheeked Thrush and a Great Crested Flycatcher, and heard a couple of Wood Thrushes.


Gray-cheeked Thrush


Great Crested Flycatcher

Next stop was Nazarenne wetlands, where I saw a few Mallards and some Canada Geese. Where were all the birds? I now had to decide where to try next, and after debating the pros and cons of several sites, decided to try Reddish Knob. Perhaps the Red Crossbills might still be there, or perhaps some warblers. On the way up to the four road intersection where the Red Crossbills are frequently seen, I saw only a few birds and heard a few others. When I got to the intersection there were no Red Crossbills, but a single American Redstart singing like crazy.


American Redstart

I drove up FR 85 in the opposite direction from the summit, and stopped about a quarter mile up when I heard birds singing: American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds, and three Gray Catbirds. Gee, my lucky day. At least I got a photo of a chipmunk.


Chipmunk

I headed back to the intersection and then up FR 85 towards the summit. I parked my car where FR 85 starts down hill just a quarter mile before the summit, and walked down the road. In previous years, Black-throated Green Warblers, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Canada Warblers, and Blue-headed Vireos have nested along the road. A short distance down I saw a pair of Dark-eyed Juncos. One of them was so fluffed up that either it was very cold, or perhaps it was practicing for the Metropolitan Opera. I got almost all the way down to where the road turns when I heard a Blue-headed Vireo.


Dark-eyed Junco


Blue-headed Vireo

And then I heard a Black-throated Green Warbler singing.


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler

I walked back up the road to my car, and heard another Black-throated Green Warbler singing.


Black-throated Green Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler

Near the warbler, I saw another bird. It was a female Canada Warbler.


Female Canada Warbler


Female Canada Warbler

If there was a female Canada Warbler, there should have been a male there as well. Sure enough!


Male Canada Warbler


Male Canada Warbler

Well, the outing was getting interesting. At least it wasn't a total bust. I headed back down the road, and stopped just before the four way intersection when I heard more birds singing. There was another American Redstart and a third Black-throated Green Warbler.


American Redstart


Black-throated Green Warbler

I turned when I heard a new warbler for the day - it was a brilliantly colored Blackburnian Warbler.


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler


Blackburnian Warbler

A few minutes later, I was back at the intersection, and I got out to look for Red Crossbills again. I didn't see any, but got my sixth warbler species for the day - a Chestnut-sided Warbler.


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler

It turned out to be a successful birding trip after all.



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