Nelson, Augusta, and Rockbridge Counties 8/23-24/12

All photos are Marshall Faintich

With the hope and expectation of seeing migrating warblers after the cool front that moved through the area at the beginning of the week, Walt Childs and I planned a three-day birding tour of our county and nearby counties. Rain prevented our birding on the third day, and the migrating birds seem to be waiting before they make their way through our area.

August 23, 2012

We started off on the Rockfish Valley Trail, where we logged 21 species in about 1-1/2 hours. Most of the birds were common RV Trail birds for the summer months, but we were treated to seeing a Great Crested Flycatcher.

Great Crested Flycatcher

Eastern Wood-Pewee

We then headed up to Reids Gap (mm 14) on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and stopped at various places along the way. There wasn't too much to see: a Red-eyed Vireo, Goldfinches, Indigo Buntings, and a few other species.

Common Raven

We made a quick stop at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch, but with southerly breezes, there wasn't a lot of activity there, so we headed up to Pocosin Cabin (mm 59.5) on Skyline Drive. It was unusually quiet there as well. We did see some Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, American Goldfinches, and a few Catbirds. One of the Catbirds posed for some close-up photos.


We did see four Broad-winged Hawks circling above. One of them looked very dark, but not dark enough to be considered a dark morph variety.

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

One of the Broad-winged Hawks targeted a small bird or large insect for a meal, and made a bee-line for it, and then quickly put on the brakes and changed its mind.

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Our last stop of the day was at Moorman's River Overlook (mm 93) where we saw a pair of Broad-winged Hawks.

Broad-winged Hawks

August 24, 2012

With only so-so results on 8/23, we decided to go west. Our first stop was at Augusta (County) Wetlands. This was a new birding location for me. There was a good boardwalk and off-boardwalk trails that took us through large fields on wildflowers, wooded areas, and marshy wetlands. We saw lots of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and other smaller birds in and around the wildflowers, and lots of large spider webs in nearby trees. The large number of insects there made for a good food source.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Spider Webs

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

In the marshy wetlands we saw Great Blue and Green Herons. A Broad-winged Hawk flew overhead.

Great Blue Heron

Green Heron

Broad-winged Hawk

At one location in one of the wooded areas, we saw Titmice, Chickadees, and three warbler species: Black and White, Chestnut-sided, and American Redstart. The bright sunlight behind the dense tree canopies made photography difficult.

Black and White Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

American Redstart

It was now noon, and we needed to decide where to go next. We were only 45 miles north of where the four Swallow-tailed Kites and two Mississippi Kites had been seen southwest of Lexington, VA. Although I saw and got some good photos of one of the SWT Kites a few days earlier, I really wanted to see a Mississippi Kite, so we headed there.

Right off the bat after arriving we saw a juvenile Northen Harrier and a Red-tailed Hawk.

Juvenile Northen Harrier

Red-tailed Hawk

A few minutes later, one, then, two, then three Swallow-tailed Kites were soaring over one of the fields. Not as close a view as I had seen a few days earlier, but there were three of them soaring gracefully in the sky.

Swallow-tailed Kites

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

At one point, a smaller raptor joined them, but it turned out to be a Broad-winged Hawk, and not a Mississippi Kite. We drove around a bit, and stopped where the kites had been seen perching, but the only interesting bird we saw there was a male Belted Kingfisher.

Male Belted Kingfisher

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