(A quote from my English birding pal, Andy Morffew, January 2014.)
Today should have been a great day for birding, but it didn't start out that way. Okay, it was a bit breezy, but with bright sunny skies, and cooler temperatures, I was hoping for a lot of interesting species. The early part of October is a great time to see late migrating warbler species, falcons, and some interesting sparrow species. It was only 48 degrees when I left my house a little before 9:00 a.m., and the forecasted high was to be in the low 70s. I had planned to go to Ridgeview Park in Waynesboro, but changed my mind to start out at the Rockfish Valley Trail, and then take the Blue Ridge Parkway from mm 14 to its start at I-64.
I had been on the trail on Saturday afternoon, but only saw a few birds and a Black Ratsnake. There had been a lot of people on the trail then, and perhaps a quiet Monday morning would be more productive.
The trail wasn't very "birdy" this morning. I did manage to see 20 species there, but most of the birds were hiding from me. I saw four Common Yellowthroats, and about the same number of Palm Warblers. One of my favorite sparrow species is the Swamp Sparrow, and I saw three of them on the trail this morning.
There were only a few birds up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I did see a small flock of Cedar Waxwings, and one of them was getting some new feathers.
I made a quick stop at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch before heading down into the Shenandoah Valley. It was quiet up there as well. I first headed west and then south to Stuart's Draft to see if there might be sparrows or rapors in The Nature Conservancy's South River Preserve. One would expect some good birds there with the vast grassland area and marsh, but I had been there twice before, once during a previous summer and a previous winter, and had not seen many birds there. The two mile hike in and then two mile hike back this morning was also poor for birding. I saw a few Indigo Buntings, Cardinals, Goldfinches, Turkey Vultures, and a very vocal House Wren.
Driving through some of my other favorite spots in Stuart's Draft was also non-productive.
I arrived at the park around 1:00 p.m., and wasn't expecting very much after a poor morning of birding. Most of the birds I saw there were common species such as Blue Jays, Robins, Crows, and Cardinals.
And then my birding day went from poor to great! While hiking on one of the park trails, I had a close encounter with a Bay-breasted Warbler that had just caught a meal. This species has been tough for me to see and photograph, and I was able to get my best photos ever of this species in non-breeding plumage.
I made a quick stop at the hawk watch on my way home, and was treated to another good photo. An American Crow landed on a power line below, and it had an entire piece of pizza in its bill - I could not tell what kind of pizza it was nor where the crow had gotten it.