Birding in (& near) West Virginia
Even though birding was a secondary purpose of the trip to West Virginia which Jacqueline and I took on September 19 (see the travel blog post from earlier today), we did have a few interesting sightings along the way. The Kestrel in the montage below was actually in Highland County, Virginia, a few miles west of Monterey. Further along Route 250 at the intersection with Bear Mountain Road, we saw another Kestrel as well as some American Goldfinches, and heard an Eastern Towhee.
It was right on the West Virginia state line that things got really interesting. I heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch but never was able to see it, unfortunately. But I did see some Dark-eyed Juncos, Black-throated Green Warblers, and other birds flitting around the tree branches. Near a picnic area a couple miles further, there were many Goldfinches and a probable Red-tailed Hawk.
Most of the rest of the birds we saw that day were in or near the Dolly Sods wilderness area, where the elevation is well over 4,000 feet and one is apt to see bird species normally found in Canada. For a while, I had just a few glimpses of birds here and there, but when we got to the South Prong trail head, I spotted some Dark-eyed Juncos and a Common Yellowthroat in the bushes. That was rewarding. On the road back down from the plateau, we stopped at a place with a lot of bird activity and I finally got close enought to photographically identify a Pine Warbler. (The black streaks raise the possibility it was a Cape May Warbler, but it was in pine trees.) I also saw and photographed an Eastern Wood Pewee, and some Black-capped Chickadees, one of which had a white spot above each eye. I'll have to find out if that is a regional plumage variation or just an aberration. Back at Seneca Rocks on the return leg of our trip, we saw several Turkey Vultures soaring past the rock outcroppings, but no hawks or eagles, unfortunately.
With all the rain we have had this month, there haven't been many chances to go out and look for migrating birds heading back south. Fortunately, however, we have had Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at our back porch feeder fairly regularly since late August. A young male dominates it, and occasionally it chases away an interloper. A bigger find was a Cape May Warbler that showed up on September 17:
After more heavy rains, several local rivers flooded last week, and as a side effect, a number of shorebirds were reported by Allen Larner in flooded lowlands east of Stuarts Draft. So I drove down there on September 18, but came up empty. Later in the day I got lucky, tallying four (4) different flycatcher species: a Willow Flycatcher and Eastern Phoebe on Bell's Lane, and an Eastern Wood Pewee and a probable Least Flycatcher in "our" back yard in north Staunton. I was also saw another warbler in the trees, but based on the underside of the tail, it was probably just a female or juvenile Cape May Warbler, the same species I had seen there the day before.
To see more photos, go to the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.