Highland County, Virginia 1/17/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Walt Childs and I crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and headed west into Highland County and into the Blue Grass Valley located near the West Virginia border. The Blue Grass Valley is a great place to see raptors, including Golden Eagles in the winter. Along the way there, we saw one Red-shouldered Hawk and three Red-tailed Hawks.

Our first stop in Highland County, before getting to the Blue Grass Valley, was in Monterey. We stopped when Walt spotted a small flock of Pine Siskins.

Pine Siskin

When we got to Blue Grass, we headed up Wimer Mountain Road, and saw several American Kestrels.

American Kestrels (male left; female right)

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

Farther up the road, we met a birder from Roanoke, Virginia, who said he had seen four Golden Eagles in the past hour - three juveniles and one adult, and one of them was going after a small herd of deer. We headed back down Wimer Mountain Road, saw the deer, but none of the eagles. We turned on Hardscrabble Road, and drove along there hoping to see eagles. The last time we were there was last September, when we saw 14 Bald Eagles, including 12 in one flock and 6 perched in the same tree. We continued past Hevener Road, and stopped when I saw a juvenile Bald Eagle. It was perched in a tree near the road, and took off a minute or so later.

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

As we drove back towards Hevener Road, I spotted a very distant and large bird. I wasn't sure what it was, but when I looked at my photos and saw a black body and white head, I knew that it was an adult Bald Eagle.

We headed back up Wimer Mountain Road, and on or way back down stopped when Walt spotted another large bird flying fairly far away. I got off a few shots, and saw that it was a juvenile Golden Eagle. The photos I got were rather poor compared with previous Golden Eagle photos I have taken there, but the golden head, small white upper wing patches, large white under wing patches, and bold tail pattern clearly mark the bird as a juvenile Golden Eagle. Compare its marking with those of the juvenile Bald Eagle.

Juvenile Golden Eagle

We only saw 21 avian species on this trip, but seeing the magnificent eagles always makes the long drive worthwhile.

Today's list:

Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel
Rock Pigeon
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Chickadee
Eastern Bluebird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
House Sparrow
Pine Siskin
Golden Eagle
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Mourning Dove

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