Easterly winds pushed in Atlantic moisture that backed up on the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was extremely foggy here in Crozet when I headed out around 9:30 this morning. The VDOT traffic cams on the Internet showed that the tops of the mountains were clear, as well as the Shenadoah Valley on the west side of the Blue Ridge. I hadn't been to Ridgeview Park in Waynesboro since last autumn, and decided to try my luck there. For some reason, the ground vegetation in this park seems to green up earlier in the spring than some other locations, and I hoped that there might be some good birds to see there. As I approached the park, a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew right in front of my car. I turned around to try for a photo, but could not re-locate the hawk. As soon as I entered the park, I got my First Of Year Blue-headed Vireo. This species usually shows up after April 10, and above 2500 foot elevation, so this one was a bit early, and Ridgeview Park is a good place to find them, even though the elevation there is 1300 feet. I was also surprised to see so many broken and downed trees in the park - presumably from the strong winter winds and ice storm.
I spent an hour and 45 minutes there, and was up to 29 avian species before heading to my next birding stop.
Waynesboro (Ridgeview Park) avian species:
From Ridgeview Park, I headed up to Route 610 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. There usually isn't good birding at that elevation until the first week of May, but thought I would look for owls, raptors, and wintering birds there, in case the east side of the mountains was still foggy. On the way there, I saw a flock of Rock Pigeons (species # 30 for the day). I drove the first 4 miles on Route 610 before entering the parkway. The Rockfish Valley, just on the east side of the mountains, was still shrouded in fog and clouds.
Rockfish Valley seen from Route 610
On Route 610 and the parkway, I saw a few Dark-eyed Juncos, Eastern Phoebes, and Eastern Towhees, and added Turkey Vulture and Pileated Woodpecker to bring my day list to 32 avian species.
I exited the parkway at Reids Gap (mm. 14), and did a little birding on the Rockfish Valley Trail as the clouds and fog had lifted. It was a shame to see that the large grassy field at the corner of the downstream and Glenthorne Loop trails had been cleared. This area had been good breeding grounds for Common Yellowthroats, Orchard Orioles, and a variety of sparrow species, in additon to feeding grounds for migrating warblers. The Rockfish Valley Trail used to be one of the premiere birding hotspots in central Virginia, but with the clearing of adjacent properties, and the trail being converted to more of a people and dog walking attraction, the birding just isn't very good there anymore. Occasionaly there's a rarity that shows up there, but the trail now is not "birdy." I saw a few White-throated Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, Eastern Phoebes, Eastern Bluebirds, a Carolina Wren, and a Northern Mockingbird to bring my day total to 34 avian species.
Corner of the downstream and Glenthorne Loop trails