April 26, 2015
Before arriving at the Gap, my car full of birders got to see two Common Ravens soaring over the valley, calling to each other with their more nasal sounding voices as compared to its cousin, the American Crow, which we also saw throughout the day in flocks. Upon arriving at Stecoah Gap, I immediately was excited to hear a Golden-Winged Warbler singing its heart out right in the dense low shrubs next to the parking lot. Unfortunately, as soon as I gathered everyone near the edge to have a listen before announcing the singer, 2 motorcyclists pulled up with engines revving and stopped right next to us trying to see what we were looking at it and of course flushed the quiet singer away for the day. We did hear 2 along the AT heading south but very distant in similar habitat further along the trail but never could get a look at one. After being flushed ourselves by the cyclists, we made our way south along the AT until we could silence the road traffic and were pleased to hear a cacophony of spring migrants!
With the group spread out each of us were observing different species, including the bird of the day: American Redstarts, in pairs. In addition, we observed other favorites in high numbers including Scarlet Tanagers, in pairs, Ovenbirds, Blackburnian Warblers, and Wood Thrushes. We of course observed a few Red-eyed Vireos preening the high branches of the trees and not too far we would be graced with flocks of Pine Siskins in huge flocks (not a surprise considering they were still hanging from winter around the area in thousands – even more once we took a quick trip to meet up with Simon at Snowbird Lodge – clouds of them flocking at their feeders).
As we continued further south along the AT, the Black-throated Blue Warblers were the more prominent voice of the woods as the rhododendron understory increased and got several good looks at striking males while singing their buzzy “I’m so LAAAZYYYY”. We also heard and saw several of his cousin, the Black-throated Green Warbler with his similar song, but sings a little less buzzy, “Trees, Trees, murmuring trees” or “Zee-zee-zoo-zee.” As we continued along the trail trying to listen for more Golden- winged warblers, we heard a different species trilling away, making us think of all the confusing trillers, including the Worm-eating Warbler, Palm Warbler, Chipping Sparrow and Dark-eyed Juncos, but at that elevation and time of year, it was a better bet for a Palm or Worm-eating warbler and it sat still on a branch facing the valley, allowing us to conclude it was a single Palm Warbler. Meanwhile on the other side of the trail, with thicker understory cover, we heard and saw many Worm-eating Warblers, which gave us a good opportunity to hear the differences between the two trilling species. About a mile down the AT, I kept hearing a Cerulean Warbler, but was never able to spot it, but we did get to see a bright blue Indigo Bunting, sitting at the edge of a tree branch, singing its little heart out…always a fan favorite!
Once we were unable to find that Cerulean, we decided to turn back and slowly make our way back to the parking area as lunch time was approaching. Besides seeing several more of the same and other usual suspects, like American Robins, Black and White Warblers, Northern Parulas (mostly heard), Hooded Warblers, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, lots of Blue-Headed and Red-eyed Vireos, and White-breasted Nuthatches, we also were graced with a more caffeinated version of the Robin’s song and through the leafing out trees, we could see a bright patch of ruby red singing towards the top of a tree: Rose-breasted Grosbeak, yet another fan favorite! As we were coming out of the forest service road, I distinctly remember being surrounded by several fighting pairs of American Redstarts, which were clearly nesting along the trail, warning each and every one of us to stay clear and get out! Gotta love that bright orange against black on those second year (plus) males…not a shabby bird for a bird of the day!
After lunch, only a few of us ventured to meet up with Simon at Snowbird Lodge and got to add on a few more species while walking along the sunrise trail, including a great long look at a Yellow-Throated Warbler and Chestnut-Sided Warbler, a cruising Broad-winged Hawk and several Turkey Vultures. Blue Jays were also vocal along the trail and in the valley along with the other corvids, Ravens and Crows. And appropriately, each of us had to hit the gong at the sunrise point! At the lodge feeders, there were enormous flocks of Pine Siskins with some American Goldfinches and one Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
Just like the year or two before, we did not get to see or hear any Red Crossbills…as Simon said in 2013, maybe next year! All in all, it was a great trip with great looks and listens of migrating passerines and we all had a fun day with beautiful weather!
Birds seen or heard on our Venture to
April 26, 2015
Avian species observed on 4/26/2015 along Stecoah Gap
Avian species observed on 4/26/2015 at Snowbird Lodge