Natural Bridge State Park is a fairly long haul from Crozet. It's almost 70 miles each way, and has never enticed me to make that trip. But last week, Dick Rowe posted seeing a Blue-winged Warbler there, and suggested that it might be nesting there. I haven't seen this species yet in 2019, and I contacted Dick for specifics on the location, and he was very helpful to provide them. When I got to the visitor center this morning around 10:15, there were only a few cars in the large parking lot. I asked one of the staff if I needed to purchase a park pass, as the location of the Blue Warbler was far from the park's natural attractions. I was told that the area where I wanted to go was closed to the public because of construction. When I explained that I had traveled a long distance to look for this bird species, the staffer took my map printout to the park manager, who agreed to let me go into that area after paying the normal parking fee, and they wrote a written permission on the receipt that went on my car dashboard. Well, one hurdle accomplished.
When I got to the area where I was to park, a metal gate was closed and chained, and I debated whether to climb the gate or go around the gate through thick and thorny vegetation. I opted to go around the gate. The weather was supposed to be sunny, but it was fairly overcast with strong breezes. I found the area described by Dick Rowe (thanks for the great details!), but it wasn't "birdy" at all. I saw a Turkey Vulture and a Red-tailed Hawk flying, saw a few Indigo Buntings, and heard a Cardinal and a Towhee in the woods. But no Blue-winged Warbler. I hiked back and forth for 30 to 45 minutes in the area where it had been seen, and decided that was enough of a try. Back to the gate, thick and thorny vegetation, and as I started to get back into my car, I did get a treat. A Wild Turkey was crossing the gravel road with two little ones. They scurried quickly into the brush on the other side, but I was able to get off a few photos.
Wild Turkey with two little ones
Wild Turkey with two little ones
I returned on the road from the visitor center. The parking lot was almost full by this time. I remembered seeing a Natural Bridge State Park trail marker a bit farther up the road on my way in, so I decided to hike there a bit. Parking there required a parking pass, which I already had from earlier. I hiked a bit on this Buck Hill trail, and added 14 more avian species for the morning. Three seemd to be quite a few first year birds out and about. I saw a female Eastern Bluebird that still had some dark juvenile markings on its belly, as well as a juvenile.
There were Northern Rough-winged and Barn Swallows, Eastern Kingbirds, and Eastern Phoebes. I think that this was the first time I had ever seen a Phoebe walking on the ground.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
I got a distant view of another flycatcher, but don't think that it was a Phoebe. This one had light outer tail feathers and perhaps an eye-ring, but I couldn't see enough detail or hear it singing to make an identification.
I saw a Green Heron on a post in a small pond, and saw male and female Orchard Orioles nearby. A young Chipping Sparrow was walking on the dirt trail.
Near the parking area, I heard a Wood Thrush, and perched on a wire were a juvenile Robin, a Brown-headed Cowbird, and a few Common Grackles. By the time I left this area, I had 21 avian species in the park.
I looked at the park map that I had, and saw there was a Cedar Creek trail that left from the visitor center area. I returned to the visitor center that was jammed with people, didn't see this trail head, and when I saw a bus load of children disembarking, I decided it was time to go somewhere less crowded. I drove back north on I-81, and got off at Raphine to get to McCormick's Mill. The sun was out now, but it was still quite windy. Even though McCormick's Mill wasn't very "birdy," I added 9 more avian species to my day list, making it 30, and not counting the barnyard geese and ducks in the pond. Among the new species were Killdeer, Eastern Meadowlarks, Tree Swallows, and a Great Blue Heron. I also got a good close-up photo of another Green Heron.
Barnyard geese and duck
Great Blue Heron