The weather was spectacular for the summer VSO field trip June 10-12, in Highland County. 49 enthusiastic birders tallied 102 species over the 3 days. Great finds included 16 warbler, 8 flycatcher and 7 woodpecker species. Many thanks to my fabulous field trip co-chair, Lee Adams, who assisted in leading groups on Saturday and Sunday; and to Wayne O'Bryan for allowing us to visit their property Sunday morning.
Friday afternoon was spent at nearby Forks of Water and Rainbow Springs Retreat property (a lovely restored 1870s farmhouse where 4 of us stayed). We were rewarded with a nice variety including Baltimore Orioles, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler and Cedar Waxwings at the first stop, followed by more Baltimore Orioles, Yellow Warbler, Broad-winged Hawk and singing Wood Thrush at the second.
Friday evening we gathered at The Real Deal restaurant for dinner, where the owners set up a buffet to accommodate our large group, serving delicious smoked beef and pork BBQ.
Saturday we divided into two groups and explored the northwest section of the county. We covered the same areas but from opposite directions, including Rt. 601 (Bear Mountain Rd), Rt. 54 (Lake Buffalo Rd), Laurel Fork, Straight Fork and various stops in-between. Along the way, we found many sought-after warblers: Canada, Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian, Blackthroated Green, American Redstart and Magnolia. We even found a Mourning Warbler along Lake Buffalo Rd, nesting in the exact same spot where we found it three years ago. On Rt. 601 we got Vesper Sparrow. The other group got Alder Flycatcher, in different spots.
Sunday morning we birded Wimer Mountain Road and the beautiful O'Bryan property. We found Golden-winged Warblers behind the house and off the road. While that was certainly the target bird, we also enjoyed Bobolink, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Cedar Waxwing and Indigo Bunting.
Spectacular views of the mountains, hills and valleys of Highland County added to the enjoyment. Many first-time visitors said the scenery alone was worth the trip. Our fantastic group of birders made this a truly memorable weekend! Complete list of species for the 3 days follows.
VSO Field Trip Co-chair
Official List of Observed Species
Great Blue Heron
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler