I wasn't sure if I was going birding this morning. Dense fog shrouded the nearby mountains like a heavy blanket. Precipitation ranged from light drizzle to light rain, with only a few dry breaks. But I read a posting by Ezra Staengl that he had seen 14 warbler species yesterday on the Rockfish Valley Trail in Nellysford, Virginia, including Connecticut, Mourning, and Blue-winged, as well a Philadelphia Vireo. He had photos of some of these birds, but not the Connecticut. I had no reason to doubt his sightings, even before seeing his photos on eBird. In September 2012, I saw a Connecticut Warbler and a Mourning Warbler on the Rockfish Valley Trail on the same day, and a few days earlier had a Blue-winged Warbler and a Lawrence's hybrid on the same trail.
I haven't been to the Rockfish Valley Trail much since moving to Crozet two years ago. It's been more than three years since I was the birding activity manager for the Rockfish Valley Trail, and more than four years since a new owner bought one of the two large parcels on the east side of Reids Creek, and clear cut almost the entire parcel. That action greatly reduced the number of breeding species on and near the trail, but the tree-lined Reids Creek and Rockfish River can sometimes be an inviting stopover location for migrating species. So I decided to go there this morning, and hoped that my camera equipment wouldn't get too wet. It seems like rain and drizzle are the new normal around here.
My first stop was at the main parking lot at the upstream trail head, where the Philadelphia Vireo had been seen. All I saw there was a Scarlet Tanager, an Eastern Bluebird, and a Gray Catbird. There was quite a bit of drizzle in the air.
My next stop was the south end of Glenthorne Loop. The Connecticut Warbler had been seen at the southwest corner of that trail section. As I walked to the second wooden bridge (the first bridge is near the downstream trail), I saw a few avian species.
Shortly after crossing the bridge and turning left to look for the Connecticut Warbler, I saw two American Kestrels.
The kestrels took off, and flew to a large tree closer to Route 151. I couldn't believe what I saw in that tree. In addition to a Northern Flicker and an American Crow, there were six American Kestrels. I have never seen more than three of them at the same time. This flock of kestrels must have made an overnight stop in their migration. Perhaps they read the posting that there were a lot of birds on the trail yesterday :-) Several Blue Jays and a flock of Starlings flew overhead.
Five American Kestrels
Sixth American Kestrel at edge of tree
Three American Kestrels
The tree with all the kestrels was near to where the Connecticut Warbler had been seen yesterday. As I walked by the dense trees and ground vegetation, I saw movement. It was the Connecticut Warbler. I got two quick looks at it, and a few blurry photos. This was my 32nd warbler species seen in Virginia this year.
As I headed back to my car, I saw a few other woodland species, including a few Red-eyed Vireos, Eastern Phoebes, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and two Swainson's Thrushes. One of the kestrels flew back to where I first saw them his morning.
I drove north, and then crossed the first wooden bridge and did some birding on that part of Glenthorne Loop and on part of the downstream trail. I saw more woodland species, and added two more warbler species: Northern Parula and Common Yellowthroat.
I drove back to the south end of Glenthorne Loop to try to re-locate the Connecticut Warbler for better photos, but was unsuccessful. All I saw were two of the six American Kestrels.
I did a little more birding on the downstream and upstream trails, but didn't add any new species, and finished my hike there this morning with 28 avian species.