[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

AT in Mt Rogers/VA Highlands

Hello all,

Got back last week from 8+ days in SW Virginia, backpacking
along the AT in the Mt. Rogers/VA Highlands area. Elevations
ranged from 2000 to 5000 ft.  OK, this is not in NC, but
wowee zowee, heard and saw some neat birds, not to mention
wildflowers and habitats.

In general, there were many CEDAR WAXWINGS about feeding on
fruiting trees and shrubs, especially at the higher rockier
elevations in Grayson Highlands, and many, many NORTHERN
JUNCOS in wooded areas at all elevations.  Other frequent
birds included House Sparrow, Red-Eyed Vireo (ubiquitous),
Robin, Veery, Wood-thrush, and a suspected Hooded Warbler.

At Bear Tree Campground off of Hyway 58 (rhododendron/fir
NORTHERN JUNCOS, and the delightful VEERY. We were also
pleased to hear and see a BELTED KINGFISHER fly across the

At the Lost Mountain Shelter, a trio of WOOD THRUSHES
serenaded us both evening and morning. First birds up after
the mice-- I heard 'em start at 5 am.

Coming up Beech Mountain (covered in spotted jewelweed,
and impressive stands of Indian Pipe), we heard the very
frequent song of what we later IDed as a BLACK-THROATED
GREEN WARBLER.  Wow. They were just all over the place all
week. I never got to see one, but confirmed the song by
Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter web site.
I wrote it down as a "zeee zee zee zoo <off>"  where the
'zoo' drops in pitch and the <off> sounds like a sputter of

Another warbler song that I was tantalized by the entire
week, was the RUFOUS-SIDED WARBLER.  I finally was able to
sight one to confirm the ID the last day at Thomas
Knob shelter near Mt. Rogers.  I only saw the one, but
judging from the ubiquitous song, they seem to be very
prolific. I heard the "See see see Ms. Beech'um" in every
wooded environment.

Passing through a small wooded bog at about 4300 ft, we
heard a curious song similar to a Northern Parula. The only
bird that seems close in Peterson's is "SUTTON'S WARBLER"
(??) which is listed as a Parula/Yellow-Throat hybrid. I did
not see the bird for confirmation, but the song was very
Three quick notes on different pitches, and then
zeeeeeee-up, zeeeeeee-up in quick succession.  The overall
effect was humorous.
If anyone wants to hike in to confirm.... From Massie's Gap
at Grayson Highlands off Va. Hywy 58, travel east (north on
AT) 2.4 miles, past both Quebec Branch and Little Wilson
Creek crossings. The mini bog with large stepping stones is
.1 of a mile past the boundary of Grayson Highlands State

Speaking of song variation, RUFOUS-SIDED <ahem> EASTERN
TOWHEES were also in abundance.  But coming through the
western upland rocky meadow near the Thomas Knob/Mt. Rogers
area (about 5,000 ft), I heard other towhees with a strange
accent. In the "drink your teaaaaaaa" song, the pitches ran
low-high-low in a minor key. Had to see one in person before
I believed my ears.
Towhees in other areas sounded typical enough, however,
including one large male showing off for us at the Scales
Trail intersection.  Sometimes he would "drink!" and other
times "drink your!" and then belt out the whole thing.

Also near Thomas Knob, we heard a CROW making very strange
noises. At various times, he squawked like a goose and even
made grunting/whining noises like a coyote. Another one hard
to believe without a visual confirmation. (Here we had been
making fun of campers claiming to have heard coyotes. It's
boy scouts! we joked, but apparently it was crows after

Camped on top of Stone Mountain, which is practically flat
at 4750 ft. with a rocky, scrubby prairie (red sorrel,
yellow and orange hawkweed, blue-eyed grass, bluettes, a
wide variety of cool mosses and grasses, huckleberries,
birch stands and wild apple??).  Many birds, but the ones I
could clearly identify by sight and song were several CEDAR

At the Old Orchard shelter on the AT (wooded, approx. 4000
ft, lots of local foot traffic), we got buzzed twice by a
dark HUMMINGBIRD. It came, saw and checked us out. JUNCOs in
the area were unafraid of foraging around the shelter. One
junco at the Grayson Highlands Campground hopped up and
practically asked for a handout. Juncos in other areas were
much more skittish around humans. Several times while
hiking, I flushed out juncos from grass and shrub cover
practically at my feet, including once in the pouring rain.

OT: Other sightings included swarms of fireflies staying lit
at length and floating, Galax, ox-eye daisy, wood sorrel,
huge mayapples, a sort of creeping pink clover/pea, creeping
partridge berry, wintergreen (not blooming), Indian Pipes in
astounding abundance--eg. stands of 7, 15, 11 clumps with
2-8 per clump and numerous singles, cinquefoil, blackberry,
huckleberry (green fruit), bearberry (blooming--the bees
loved 'em), rhododendron (white and purple varieties),
purple? trillium with leaves the size of dinner plates and
platters (past bloom), spiderwort, yarrow, pale and spotted
jewelweeds, flame azaleas (orange and red-orange), yellow
orange hawkweed/king devil, wild iris (blooming), crowsfoot
geranium, Canada/Meadow Woodlily (in bud), Orange Bell Lily
(at WhiteTop Mt), ferns galore, true Solomon's Seal (past
bloom), False Solomon's Seal, False-lily-of-the-valley (past
bloom), buttercups, red sorrel, blue-eyed grass in
abundance, bluettes, mulberry, chokecherry, virginia
waterleaf, robin plantain (looking like mauve asters), dwarf
heal-all, false hellebore (not blooming), clintonia (past
bloom to green fruit), whorled loosestrife (blooming),
possible black cohosh (blooming), baneberry ? (both blooming
and in green berry), chickweed, saxifrage, phlox,   ... plus
all kinds of insects, slugs, fungus and mushrooms I could
not identify.

Needless to say, it's a naturalist's heaven up there.

Joy Greenwolfe
Durham, NC