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September 30, 2013 [LINK / comment]

Fall bird migration reaches the peak

Well, here it is the end of the month, and I really need to document the birding activities for September. Fall migration is hard to predict, but this year there have been lots and lots of warblers. Here are some of the highlights:

On Wednesday, September 4 I stopped at the Rockfish Valley trail on the way home from Sweet Briar College. It was the first time I had entered from the rear (east) side, where there are more moist thickets and bogs that are favorable to warblers. I saw many Indigo Buntings (mostly all brown), Hummingbirds, and a juvenile White-eyed Vireo.

On Saturday morning, September 7, I joined an Augusta Bird Club field trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We saw some warblers and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo at the first overlook we stopped at, but after that there weren't as many birds. In the afternoon, most of us spent a while at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch, by the Afton Inn.

On Sunday morning, September 8 I went to Bell's Lane and got decent photographs of a male Magnolia Warbler, a Philadelphia Vireo, a Willow Flycatcher, and a female American Redstart.

American Redstart F

American Redstart (female), on Bell's Lane Sunday morning, September 8.

On Friday, September 13 I led a field trip to Sweet Briar College, with their biologist Michael Hayslett serving as our guide. He runs the vernal pools conservation program, a very worthwhile outreach effort. It was a beautiful day, and we saw many Killdeers, Bluebirds, and Chipping Sparrows, but only a few warblers. The nature highlight was a Queen Snake, dropped along a low tree branch.

Back on Bell's Lane on September 15, I saw a Lincoln's Sparrow for the first time this year, and also a Double-crested Cormorant. In both cases, I was lucky to get photographs. I went back to the Rockfish Valley trail on September 19, and saw some Hummingbirds, etc.

One of my biggest birding days of the year was September 24, when I walked along the Blackwater nature trail in Lynchburg during the afternoon between classes. I saw several Cape May Warblers, a Tennessee Warbler, a Golden-winged Warbler, and even a Bay-breasted Warbler! (I had glimpsed one on Bell's Lane during the spring migration season.) Also seen: a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a Scarlet Tanager, a Wood Thrush, Easter Wood Pewees, a Brown Thrasher, a probable Red-shouldered Hawk, several woodpeckers, and the "usual suspects." I got photographs of most of them, to my great delight.

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler (male), in Lynchburg on Tuesday afternoon, September 24.

Finally, Jacqueline and I went hiking in the Shenandoah National Park on Saturday, September 28. It was a chilly, overcast day, and I wasn't expecting many birds. To my surprise, I saw a Magnolia Warbler and a male Black-throated Blue Warbler at Jarman's Gap. Later, we were on a trail toward Turk Mountain and saw an Ovenbird and a female Black-throated Blue Warbler. We struggled to get across the boulders at the top of Turk Mountain, and after a while the effort finally paid off. While we were scanning the valley scenery below us, we started seeing a flurry of activity in the nearby bushes, and soon there were Black-throated Green Warblers all around us. One even landed ten feet away from me, and I managed to get a good photograph of it! There was also a Blackpoll Warbler in that group. Altogether, I saw six warbler species that day, a veritable jackpot!

Black-throated Green Warbler

All six of these warblers were photographed in Shenandoah National Park on Saturday afternoon, September 28, while hiking with Jacqueline. Clockwise from top left: Ovenbird, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler (F), Magnolia Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, and Black & White Warbler. Roll your mouse over the image to see the Black-throated Green Warbler (male), at the top of Turk Mountain.

As I wrote on Facebook just a while ago, "These warblers are now officially off limits to the general public, as the Shenandoah National Park (and the rest of the NPS) will remain closed until the budget showdown is resolved. Photographed in Shen. Nat. Park on Saturday." smile In sum, it was quite a good month of birding! There are many other new items on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

New warbler guide

From Penny Warren, I learned about The Warbler Guide, by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, newly published by Princeton University Press. It looks very impressive; for details, see

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 01 Oct 2013, 2: 30 AM

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Blog highlights have been compiled for the years 2010-2012 thus far, and eventually will be compiled for earlier years, back to 2002.


The "home made" blog organization system that I created was instituted on November 1, 2004, followed by several functional enhancements in subsequent years. I make no more than one blog post per day on any one category, so some posts may cover multiple news items or issues. Blog posts appear in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the chronological order in which the posts were originally made:

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