Crozet, VA; Rockfish Valley Trail 5/16/11

All photos are Marshall Faintich

It is always a dilemma for me - do I go birding here in the Rockfish Valley and surrounding mountains (my Wintergreen area), or drive 30 to 60 minutes each way to another Central Virginia birding location? After reading about the Mourning Warbler and Veery (two potential life birds for me) at Mint Springs Park, located about 2 miles west of Crozet, I decided to try my luck there. Birding in Albemarle County has always been a tough nut for me to crack - seems like I am almost always at the wrong place at the wrong time (see my last attempt on May 5th:)

5/5/2011 report

But I had some limited success at Mint Springs Park last year, so I wanted to give it a try. It has been raining off and on since last Thursday, and the forecast is the same until this coming Friday. It was overcast this morning, but worth a try as the weather radar showed only some spotty rain cells in the Central Virginia area.

I didn't have much trouble getting through the route 151 road work in the Rockfish Valley, but got hung up in the Western Albemarle school bus traffic on route 250. I finally made it to Mint Springs Park at 9:00. A bit late, but not too bad for finding some good birds. I parked my car, walked 20 feet to the trail kiosk, and it started to rain. While standing there I saw a Bluebird and a Mourning Dove. I then drove my car to the parking lot by the first lake, and stood under the shelter there, watching birds on and around the lake as it continued to rain, but kept looking like it was going to clear. I saw/heard a Canada Goose, Pewee, Phoebe, Grackle, Crow, Barn and Tree Swallows, and an unidentified sparrow. The highlight was a pair of Spotted Sandpipers flying across the lake.

Spotted Sandpipers

By 10:00 I had waited long enough - it was still raining, so I headed back - when I got to the main intersection at Crozet, the rain stopped, so I turned my car around to head back to Mint Springs Park. As soon as I got turned around and started to return, the rain also returned. Not to be outdone, I continued back to the park to see if the bird gods were playing tricks on me, and it really was going to stop. Nope - it was still raining. I turned around again and headed back, stopping at the King Family Vineyards where a Moorhen and a Snowy Egret were seen yesterday - birds that I have seen elsewhere, but never around here. But it was still drizzling when I got there, and all I saw were a few Mallards and Red-winged Blackbirds. Time to head home.

At 10:45 I made the turn onto route 151 to south head through the Rockfish Valley, and could see to the east (where I had just been) that the sky was now blue with white puffy clouds. After 10 miles I got to my turn-off to go home, but the rain had stopped, so I decided to continue another four miles south to the Rockfish Valley Trail - the skies looked clear there. I arrived at 11:00, parked my car on Glenthorne Loop, walked 100 yards, and it started to rain again. But the rain didn't last very long. It was still heavily overcast, and fairly late in the morning, but I spent an hour on the Glenthorne Loop trail - at least I got in a couple of miles of walking - something I had missed in the previous days of rain.

Given the poor conditions, I was happy to log 17 species on the trail in that one hour:

Field Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Eastern Bluebird
Red-winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch
Eastern Meadowlark
Northern Cardinal
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-breasted Chat
Turkey Vulture
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Pileated woodpecker
Indigo Bunting
Cedar Waxwing

Common Yellowthroat

Yellow-breasted Chat

It is now late afternoon as I post this report from my home computer - the sun is shining outside. Some days just don't work out as planned.

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