Venture to the Orchard at Altapass
September 21, 2019
A beautiful sunrise over the Blue Ridge gave us a hopeful start to our morning at the Orchard. It was foggy along the ridge, but the clouds were just high enough to not obscure our view of the surrounding landscape. The first couple hours of the morning were quite birdy as many migrant birds came over the pass feeding voraciously in the oaks, hickories, and cherries along the parkway. Large numbers of Tennessee Warblers passed through the gap as well as Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green and a nice diversity of other warblers. A quick glimpse of a Philadelphia Vireo was the first highlight of the morning. Soon after a Blue-winged Warbler appeared in the midstory of a poplar! Other highlights at the Orchard included Cape May Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Swainson’s Thrush.
About midmorning we drove a couple miles up the parkway to Heffner Gap to see if there was still some activity. Small flocks of migrants were still passing through. We quickly encountered a charm of Goldfinches followed by some nice views of a couple Black-throated Green Warblers. As the morning wore on, the temperature rose, and activity slowed.
We returned to the Orchard and walked along the road through the mature hardwood forest. There were not many birds moving around, but we did get a special moment with a male Black-throated Blue Warbler. Right before we sat down to eat a lone Broad-winged Hawk swooped low right over us offering a spectacular view to chat about over our picnic lunch. As usual at the orchard, as lunch ended the bluegrass began and we said our goodbyes to the sounds of Appalachia.