There are 36 warbler species that can be seen in central Virginia each year; however, a few are extremely difficult to locate. I include Yellow-breasted Chat in this group, even though this species was recently moved out of the warbler family. Although I have photographed all 36 of these species here in Virginia, I have never gotten all 36 in Virginia in a single year, and try each year to accomplish this goal. The closest I have come is 33 in 2012. I do not include a 37th regular Virginia warbler species, Swainson's Warbler, in my 36 warbler species target, as it is only seen in a few isolated areas in Virginia far from where I go birding, but I have seen and photographed this species three times, once in Virginia, and twice in North Carolina.June 10
Yellow-breasted Chats usually nest each year along the Rockfish Valley Trail in Nellysford, where I was the birding activity manager for 5+ years. However, last year was the only year I missed this species since I started my 36 warbler species goal in 2008. We moved from Nellysford three years ago, but I still go back there for auto repairs and haircuts. I needed a haircut this morning, and even though there was off and on rain all day, I went over to the RV Trail after my haircut and got my warbler species # 28 for 2019.
A birder had posted seeing 10 warbler species along the Mill Prong Trail six days earlier. This trail is located off of Skyline Drive near mm. 52. One of the warbler species was a Blue-winged, and I still need that species for 2019. Walt Childs went with me to look for it. We had birded along the trail at Pocosin Cabin at mm. 59.5 many times, and as recently as last May 14th, but I had never been on the Mill Prong Trail just 7.5 miles to the north of there. The weather forecast was for some clouds and temperatures in the low 70s. We stopped on Skyline Drive just north of Route 33 where we had entered, and I got a photo of a Cedar Waxwing that was puffed out to keep warm. It was 57 degrees and windy, and I wished that I hadn't worn a short-sleeved shirt!
The Mill Prong Trail was steep in places, and with dense tree cover, very dark. We saw several avian species, including a few Veeries, lots of American Redstarts, and heard both Kentucky and Hooded Warblers. But we only hiked part of that trail before moving on, as the habitat didn't seem to be changing, and the trail was getting steeper.
Our next stop was at Pocosin Cabin, and it was much quieter than I had expected. We saw several species, including a few American Redstarts and I heard a Cerulean Warbler.
We stopped at the Hightop Mountain Trail where we had Kentucky Warblers in previous years. I heard another Cerulean Warbler, saw more American Redstarts, and I heard what was either another Kentucky Warbler or an Ovenbird. Both of these warbler species can sound similar to me, and this one was too close for me to make an audible species identification.
Next stop was Loft Mountain. This is a good place to find Chestnut-sided Warblers, and I was not disappointed.
First year male American Redstart
I watched a Red-eyed Vireo stalk and then catch, play with, and then enjoy a meal.
Our last birding stop on Skyline Drive was at Sawmill Ridge Overlook near mm. 96. This is a reliable location for Pine Warblers.
Three different weather forecast sites each had different forecasts for today, so I did a short hike here in Old Trail (Crozet). The Albemarle County Western Park is completely contained within Old Trail, and I often start out birding there, and then check out a few places along the Old Trail Lindy Bain Loop Trail. The park has nesting Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats, and at least one of the Willow Flycatchers is still there singing its Fitz-hugh song.
I ended up with 31 avian species in Old Trail this morning.
The most interesting part of this morning's hike was watching one of our resident Red-shouldered Hawks. It was on one of its usual perches in the park.
Some of the other avian species were not happy that the hawk was there. First, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird flew up and tried to drive the hawk away.
Red-shouldered Hawk and Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Well, that didn't work, so a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher made several passes at the hawk.
Red-shouldered Hawk and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
That didn't work either, so a Red-winged Blackbird tried a few times without success.
Red-shouldered Hawk and Red-winged Blackbird
Time to bring in the big guns. A Common Grackle was also unsuccessful.
Red-shouldered Hawk and Common Grackle
The smaller birds re-grouped, and this time, both the Red-winged Blackbird and the Common Grackle went at the hawk at the same time, and the hawk had had enough. It flew away with both birds and a smaller bird in pursuit.
Red-shouldered Hawk and its "friends"
Red-shouldered Hawk and its "friends"