Valley fog in Asheville did not impede us as we started driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Craggy Mountains. Bird song was quite active, and we quickly heard one of our target species for the day, Cerulean Warbler. We found quite a few Ceruleans but none were giving us good looks. After a while of pursuing an individual we got brief but good views of a male Cerulean high in the canopy. Other early highlights to the day included a flyover Sharp-shinned Hawk and many obliging Scarlet Tanagers.
As we made our way higher up the Blue Ridge, we walked a short trail to look for Canada Warblers. Our persistence eventually paid off and we were delighted to get excellent views of a couple territorial males. As we drove up to the 5,000 feet elevation marker of the Craggys I heard a Chestnut-sided Warbler singing on the side of the parkway. We quickly pulled over and all got excellent looks at the noisy male that was singing on an emergent branch at an overlook. From here, we continued to rise in elevation and entered the Black Mountains, the highest mountain range in the eastern US. The habitat began to transition from northern hardwood to spruce fir forest. We turned our attention to Red Crossbills and heard one flying over Balsam Gap. We also observed Golden-crowned Kinglets, Veery, and Pine Siskin.
Upon reaching the road up to Mount Mitchell we were stopped by a State Park officer who told us they were only allowing a limited number of people up to Mount Mitchell because of Covid-19 and were at capacity. No worries at all! We adapted and went over to Ridge Junction where we broke out our picnic lunch and listened to Hermit Thrush, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Blackburnian Warblers singing around us. A lovely way to end our summer day trip high in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler