Birding in July: a few random "hot spots"
(NOTE: Once again, I have fallen way behind -- four whole months -- in documenting my birding activities in this blog. I am getting caught up, however, and will continue to do so.)
After midsummer, birds aren't quite as active, devoting most of their attention and energy to feeding and caring for their young fledglings, rather than ostentatiously singing and courting. Likewise, my birding activity in July was diminished compared to the month of June. On the third day of the month, I headed to the Bald Mountain trail, located at mile marker 22 along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was hoping to see one of the Black-throated Blue Warblers that Marshall Faintich had reported there a week or so previously. On the way there, I stopped at the Three Ridges overlook, near Wintergreen, and saw an Indigo Bunting or two. Soon after arriving at the primary destination, I spotted a Dark-eyed Junco singing. It's always odd to see those "winter" species so close to home during the summer months. Most of them breed in northern latitudes, but some choose higher elevations in Appalachia. I saw a few of the usual warblers, but the highlight of the day was a family of Red-breasted Nuthatches.
Three days later, July 7, I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Reddish Knob and vicinity, with four other members in attendance. As usual there were Chestnut-sided Warblers at the open meadow along Briery Branch Road just before you reach the top of the mountain, and in several places along the crest of the mountain. Along the dirt road leading northward to Bother Knob, we saw several Cedar Waxwings, Chipping Sparrows, as well as a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a possible Veery. None of us saw the Mourning Warbler which had been reported in that area a week or two earlier, however. The big highlight was a Red Crossbill spotted in a tree top by Tom Roberts at the road intersection where they are often seen. Driving toward Reddish Knob we saw a family of Blue-headed Vireos, very active and amusing, but difficult to see in the poor light. It started to rain again at the summit, so as soon as we enjoyed another good look at a Chestnut-sided Warbler, we headed home.
Four days after that, I did a solo expedition to Highland County (where the bird club usually does a field trip in early June), but my preliminary stop at the Ramsey's Draft picnic area yielded the biggest surprises. There I had a great closeup view of a Northern Parula, along with a Blue-headed Vireo, a Canada Warbler, and two or three Black-billed Cuckoos. I was astonished by the latter two species, which are quite uncommon.
Crossing into Highland County, just north of the town of Blue Grass I saw a guy with a big camera by the side of the road, and stopped since I assumed he was a birder. It turns out that he was more of a general nature photographer who was visiting from Pennsylvania. He pointed out the bird he saw in a nearby tree: a young Bald Eagle! Then I drove north to the former home of Margaret O'Bryan, where I was hoping to see a Golden-winged Warbler. There I met a nice couple who work with the Virginia Society of Ornithology; they explained that the VSO had acquired the house and surrounding land, which was great news. In that vicinity I saw some Orchard Orioles, House Wrens, and glimpsed some warblers, but not the one I was looking for. Next to the house I noticed this bench, which had just been delivered and unwrapped:
On Friday July 15, I paid a brief visit to Bell's Lane, and soon after arriving spotted two (later three) Green Herons in the small pond that is shrouded by bushes. By aiming my camera just right through the branches, I managed to get a great photo of one of them. I also saw some Eastern Kingbirds and a loud House Wren, along with the others listed below.
Early in the morning of July 27 I went back to Bell's Lane with Jacqueline, and we soon spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk in a tree not far away. I also had a tantalizing glimpse of a Great Crested Flycatcher and the other usual summer residents of that area.
Individual photos of some of the birds in the above montages can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological page.