Blue Ridge Parkway, VA, 6/14/16

All photos are Marshall Faintich

I firmly believe that many birds and other animals can detect threatening and non-threatening human behavior, and respond accordingly. Today was one of those days. Although it was a bit warmer and a bit more humid than yesterday, it was still very pleasant to be outside. I decided to see what might be up on the first 14 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and if birding wasn't good there, to head up Skyline Drive. But I never made it to Skyline Drive.

I stopped first at my favorite parkway site, Hickory Springs Overlook (mm. 12), where I logged 16 avian species. I have birded here many times, and I think that the resident birds know me and don't seem to mind my taking photos. There were four or five Cerulean Warblers foraging at mid to high level in the trees, and a pair of Scarlet Tanagers were easy to find.


Cerulean Warbler


American Redstart


American Redstart


Male Scarlet Tanager


Male Scarlet Tanager


Female Scarlet Tanager


Female Scarlet Tanager


Scarlet Tanagers


Downy Woodpecker

As I was walking north of the overlook, I heard more birds a bit farther up the road, so I continued walking past my usual stopping point at that overlook. About 200 feet farther up the road, I heard a crashing noise in the woods, and turned to see a good sized bear running about 50 to 100 feet from me, and in the direction of the overlook. Perhaps the bear had seen me, and took off in a hurry? I thought for a moment if I wanted to try to get a photo of the bear, but then thought it more prudent to return to my car. I walked slowly back towards the overlook, remembering that bears instinctively chase a running animal. I didn't see the bear again, but still wished that I had gotten a photo.

I then stopped at the upper south end of the large cirque between mm. 7 and mm. 8 where I saw a few more birds. I then drove and parked on a gravel pull-off just past the lower north end of the cirque. There were Ovenbirds and American Redstarts. Then I heard a chipping noise, looked up, and saw a Cerulean Warbler foraging less than 10 feet away from me.


Cerulean Warbler


Cerulean Warbler


Cerulean Warbler


Cerulean Warbler


Cerulean Warbler


Cerulean Warbler

I exited the parkway near mm 4.5, and got onto Route 610 that runs parallel to the parkway. About a mile or so down the road, I stopped when I heard quite a few birds. In addition to some woodland birds that were new to me for the day, there were more warblers. An Ovenbird popped up to see who I was.


Ovenbird


Ovenbird

And then it really got to be fun. A pair of Worm-eating Warblers were foraging near the road, and one of them popped up very close to where I was standing.


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler

I walked down the road a bit, and saw a first year male American Redstart foraging next to the road, and a Black and White Warbler in a nearby tree.


American Redstart


Black and White Warbler


Black and White Warbler

As I walked back to my car, one of the Worm-eating Warblers flew two feet in front of me at knee level, landed in the leaves next to where I was standing, and started foraging in the leaves.


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler


Worm-eating Warbler

The other Worm-eating Warbler was foraging in the leaves just on the other side of the road. I drove a short distance down Route 610, and stopped again when I heard more birds. This time, a Hooded Warbler was close by in a tree, then popped down to forage on the ground, and popped up several times to show me what it had caught.


Hooded Warbler


Hooded Warbler


Hooded Warbler


Hooded Warbler


Hooded Warbler


Hooded Warbler

Birding just doesn't get any better than this! I got back onto the parkway around mm 2.5, and made quick stops at the Rockfish Gap Overlook (mm. 2) and at a gravel pull-off between there and the Afton Mountain Overlook. There were Cerulean Warblers at both stops. That was good as they had left this area when all the brush cutting was taking place there a month ago, but I couldn't find any Kentucky Warblers that had left at the same time.



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