Blue Ridge Parkway and Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch 8/30/10

After hearing reports of a number of warbler species on Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, I decided to check out a few of my favorite spots there this morning. High pressure over the eastern U.S. has brought in winds from the northwest, although the the temperatures are still forecasted to be high this week. It is in the mid-90s this afternon down here in the valley, but it was in the low to mid-70's up on the parkway this morning. I was hoping that the winds would drive even more warblers here today.

I got a bit of a late start, and arrived at the mountain cirque between mile markers 7 and 8 a little after 9:00 a.m. There was little bird activtiy there - I saw a Mourning Dove, heard a Pileated Woodpecker, and got a photo of a bird in a tree that after processing, I could identify as a Black-throated Green Warbler.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Twenty minutes later and unimpressed with this spot, I drove up to the fairly large open view just before m.m. 9 where I had seen lots of titmice and chickadees the last time I was there. All I saw was a Scarlet Tanager - possibly a female, but more likely a male in non-breeding plumage as its wings were very dark.

Scarlet Tanager

After a few minutes, I headed up to Hickory Springs Overlook near m.m. 12. I could hear quite a few birds, but they were very difficult to see. Perhaps the low autumn sun angle and high contrast in the tree leaves was the culprit, but other than a few birds that flew so quickly that I could not identify them, the only other bird I saw was a juvenile male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I heard Eastern Towhees, a Carolina Wren, and a Pileated Woodpecker, and a few other species that I could not identify. Bummers! At this point I didn't even know that I had a BTG Warbler at the first stop, and decided to head back down the parkway and stop at the Hawk Watch.

juvenile male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

When I arrived a few minutes before 11:00, there were two observers who had been there more than an hour and had only seen two Turkey Vultures. What was going on with birds this morning? Finally, after a little while, the activity did pick up, and we saw a Sharp-shinned and a Red-tailed Hawk, about 15 to 20 Broad-winged Hawks (including a cluster of 12), a Northern Harrier, a Bald Eagle, and a Raven. All but one of the Broad-wings were distant sightings, but at least there was some activity. Think I will go back to the Rockfish Valley Trail tomorrow.

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Northern Harrier

Bald Eagle

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