I picked up Walt Childs at his house in Stoney Creek (Rockfish Valley section of Wintergreen), and then we headed up Route 664 to Reids Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway (mm 14). Our plan was to head south on the parkway, but we first went north to Hickory Springs Overlook (mm 12). The summer resident Cerulean Warblers were there, we heard and saw an Ovenbird flying, and heard Worm-eating Warblers. An Osprey flew overhead.
We back-tracked and headed south, making a couple of brief stops before doing some more intense birding near mm 23. We hiked a short way on a rocky Forest Service road where we saw a Hooded Warbler and heard a Northern Parula.
A little farther south on the parkway, we pulled into a short loop road where we saw Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Blue-headed Vireos, Hairy Woodpecker, Wild Turkey, White-breasted Nuthatch, Morning Doves, a Cedar Waxwing, and a few Chestnut-sided Warblers.
Walt and continued down to Yankee Horse Ridge Overlook. It was very quiet there, and we saw only a few birds there, but they included our seventh warbler species of the day: American Redstart. We headed back north on the parkway, and then went down and west on Irish Creek Road. There were only a few birds on the way down, but stopped near the bottom and level areas when we heard and saw two Louisiana Waterthrushes.
In that same area, I got a very quick look at a rather large bird fly up from a branch and into the woods. It looked like a small and stocky hawk, but its coloring didn't look like any hawk that I could identify - rufous tail with white and rufous upper wings. I got a few out-of-focus photos of it as it flew away, and after procesing them on my computer, now think that this bird was an owl - perhaps a rufous morph Screech Owl. Any other opinions are appreciated.
We got to the River Road, turned north, and then turned east on Route 56 back up to the parkway. We stopped again a near mm 23, and then headed back down Route 664 at Reids Gap. Walt suggested that we cross Route 151 and do a quick stop at the Rockfish Valley Trail from Glenthorne Loop (Route 664 becomes Route 627, Glenthorne Loop, on the east side of 151). I was the birding activity manager at the Rockfish Valley Trail for more than five years, but hadn't been back there since Alice and I moved to Crozet last August. Walt and I parked at the small grass lot near the first (northern) wooded bridge. Several species breed there in the summer, and I wanted to see if they were there again this year. As soon as we crossed the first wooden bridge, I heard a Yellow-breasted Chat (one of the regular summer breeders), and then it popped up to say hello. Walt commented that it just wanted to ask where I had been since last year :-)
We saw two other usual summer breeding species there during a very short hike: White-eyed Vireo and Common Yellowthroat, bringing our warbler species list for the day to 10. I also want to note that about three years ago, the sale and clear cutting of one of the two adjacent lots on the east side of Reids Creek took out a lot of avian habitat, and drastically reduced the number of species on this trail. The large grassy field on the west side of the creek at the first wooden bridge is now completely overgrown with dense vegetation, and might be a good place to look for migrating warblers this autumn, assuming that the vegetation is not cut.
Juvenile White-eyed Vireo