Blue Ridge Parkway, VA, 6/6/16

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Summer Tanagers are one of my favorite avian species, although I have only seen a few of them, and I really want to get better photos of them. I started birding in December 2006, and the previous bird walk I had been on was in May 1957, when I went on a bird hike while I was at 6th grade school camp. The school district naturalist pointed a few birds that we saw, including a Scarlet Tanager, and explained the difference between Scarlet and Summer Tanagers. The very next day, our sixth grade teacher was giving us an outdoor class when a Summer Tanager landed on top of the red hat she was wearing, and I immediately knew what species it was!

There was a report two weeks ago of a Summer Tanager on Loft Mountain along Skyline Drive, but that was a 60 mile drive each way for me, and there was a report last week of a Summer Tanager about halfway between mm. 0 and mm. 14 on the Blue Ridge Parkway - my local stomping grounds for finding warblers. I had seen a female Summer Tanager in September 2010 at the north end of the cirque between mm. 7 and mm. 8 on the parkway, so I decided to bird along the parkway and look for a Summer Tanager there instead of making the drive to Loft Mountain.

I stopped first at Hickory Springs Overlook (mm. 12), where I logged a dozen avian species including Cerulean and Hooded Warblers, American Redstart, and a pair of Scarlet Tanagers. Dense tree foliage made finding birds a bit difficult.


American Redstart


Scarlet Tanagers

My next stop was at the upper, south end of the cirque, where I saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, more American Redstarts, and a male Cerulean Warbler paid me a visit, but didn't come too close to me. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo made a quick stop before flying to the east up the mountain.


Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Rose-breasted Grosbeak


First summer male American Redstart


Male Cerulean Warbler


Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I drove down to the lower, north end of the cirque and did some more birding there. A pair of male Scarlet Tanagers was in the trees, a female Cerulean Warbler was foraging in the brush along the parkway, and a few Ovenbirds were there as well.


Scarlet Tanager


Scarlet Tanager


Female Cerulean Warbler


Female Cerulean Warbler


Ovenbird


Ovenbird


First summer male American Redstart

I then saw a Cuckoo, and at first assumed it was the Yellow-billed I had seen at the south end of the cirque, but it turnd out to be a Black-billed Cuckoo!


Black-billed Cuckoo


Black-billed Cuckoo

I got onto route 610 a little way past the Humpback Rocks Visitor Center, and continued north and parallel to the parkway. There were more Ovenbirds, Cerulean Warblers, and American Redstarts, in addition to other species such as Wood Thrushes.


Ovenbird


First summer male American Redstart

I continued down route 610, and stopped to take a few photos from my car when I saw a mama Black Bear and two cubs on the road. As soon as mama bear saw me, she ushered her cubs into the woods. I was able to get a few photos, but my camera settings were tuned for birds in foliage, and the bear photos are a bit over-exposed.


Mama Black Bear and two cubs


Mama Black Bear and two cubs


Mama Black Bear and two cubs



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