Ridge Junction Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway
September 16, 2019
The sunrise was blood-orange as we drove into the Ridge Junction Overlook parking lot. The ridges of all the distant mountain ridges were etched with light making for a spectacular vista. Even with no birds, it’s a pleasure to just soak up the panorama.
Much like yesterday the pre-dawn flight was rather slow with the action picking up once the sun started hitting the nearby treetops. The wind had also shifted direction and was blowing strongly forcing most of the birds to stick to the trees and move uphill rather than fly directly across the gap. We spent the next 2 hours watching the birds flying across the access road to Mt Mitchell with hundreds of warblers zipping across in front of us. At first it was tough as not many birds actually sat still for more than a split second, but eventually we had great views of Cape May, Tennessee, Chestnut-sided and Black-throated Green Warblers and a beautiful Yellow-billed Cuckoo. After a brief break for coffee and some additional information from another birder, we decided to head down to Balsam Gap (Walker Overlook) where the next couple of hours were spent watching some spectacular migration through the woods. Hundreds of Swainson’s Thrushes, Scarlet Tanagers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were streaming over our heads, along with many, many warblers. Some additional icing on the cake were several Red Crossbills that were heard and eventually seen atop some spruce trees.
It was a beautiful day weather-wise and an exceptional insight into fall migration in the Carolina Mountains. Thanks to Ventures guide Michael Plauché for his great help and expertise.