My plan was to go to the Rockfish Valley Trail around 5:00 p.m. and stay there until 7:00 to look for Nighthawks. The weather forecast was 20% chance of rain before 3:00 p.m. At 3:40, it was sunny at my house, so I decided to go to the trail early, and I arrived there at 3:40. As soon as I got out of my car, the sky turned black, and there were numerous lightning bolts and thunder. I decided that it would not be wise to hike the trail carrying my camera on a metal monopod, so I decided to sit in may car and wait out the rain.
This was a slow moving thunderstorm. Although not much rain fell, there was lightning until 4:50 - should have stuck with my original time plan. But I could see that the storm was clearing, and the upstream trail was sunny, but downstream and Glenthorne Loop were still dark. I headed upstream to the park benches, and by 5:00 the entire trail was in sunshine. By the time I hiked back to the main kiosk, I already had 12 species:
On the downstream and Glenthorne Loop trails. I soon added 7 more species, but wondered if I would make my 20 species target as the day was getting late:
Great Blue Heron
While I was hiking on the Glenthorne Loop trail, I stopped when I noticed a small raccoon about ten feet away from me in the brush. This little guy crouched down as it tried to hide from me.
I held my ground and kept taking pictures, and after about a minute, I started to talk to the raccoon, telling him that I was not going to harm him. The raccoon must have gotten the message, as he soon lost his fear of me, stood up to get a better look as to who or what I was, gave me a grin (or perhaps was just sticking his tongue out at me), and then proceeded to walk out of the brush and down the trail a few feet, and then headed back into the brush.
As I was heading back to the kiosk along the downstream trail, I saw a pair of birds in the tall bushes near along the Rockfish River between the end of the fenced field and the picnic table. These birds really looked unusual to me - perhaps it was the low and yellow sunlight of the setting sun. I took lots of photos of them, and after processing and examining them on my computer, I am fairly sure that they are juvenile male Indigo Buntings undergoing fall molting. The first one seems to have an unusual head shape and bill for an Indigo Bunting, and the colors seemed a bit off on the second one.
juvenile male Indigo Bunting
juvenile male Indigo Bunting
I made it back to the kiosk a little before 7:00, and decided to hike back up the upstream trail into the setting sun direction, so that I could return with the low sunlight to my back if there were any Nighthawks flying over the fields adjacent to the trail. I saw a bird perched at the very top of a dead tree branch at the northwest end of the fenced field, so I took a few photos of it. As I was looking into the direction of the sun, it was difficult to see what I had photographed, but it looked like a flycatcher with a white patch on its back - I thought that it was either an unusual molt or perhaps a leucistic area on the bird.
However, when I got past the bird and took another shot from the sunlight side, I saw another white patch on this side of the flycatcher - my heart and mind started racing . . . could it be an Olive-sided Flycatcher? I had seen the first and second Olive-sided Flycatchers recorded for Nelson County in May and August 2008, and remembered that when I was researching this rare visitor, I learned that juveniles often show a white rump patch. This species also sits on the highest dead branch of a tree so that it can search in all directions for flying insects.
"Turn around so I can see your breast," I thought to myself, and when it did I could see the darked streaked vest and short tail - YES! It was the third sighting of an Olive-sided Flycatcher in Nelson County (and my 20th bird species on this hike). I took about 100 photos of it from different angles.
I left the trail about 7:20 p.m. without seeing any Nighthawks, but that did not matter to me.