[Bristol-Birds] Fw: Mt Rogers, VA: more Least Flycatchers in forested areas and Magnolia Warblers galore

  • From: "Wallace Coffey" <jwcoffey@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Bristol-Birds" <bristol-birds@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 3 Jul 2010 17:22:34 +0000

From: Kevin Caldwell
To: Carolina birds
Mt Rogers, VA:  more Least Flycatchers in forested areas and Magnolia Warblers 
Jul 2, 2010 11:04 AM

I just returned from two days birding @ Mt Rogers doing a couple of remote 
routes that do not start @ trailheads (as most do). The routes consisted of 15 
points on the AT east of Elk Garden to Wilburn Ridge and then the Scales area 
to the east.  Habitats included high elevation rocky summits, grassy / shrub 
balds (many being post-logging, still open from years ago and now browsed by 
wild horses), spruce fir and northern hardwoods.  Survey consisted of 30 total 
points, 15 along each of two routes on 250 meter intervals from 5:45 to approx 
10:15 to 10:30am.

Vesper's sparrows are throughout open areas with some moderate+ shrub 
component.  Strangely - no hawks of any species observed and not  single 
black-billed cuckoo, which I'd really hoped to find.  

Perhaps best of all - other than 5 least flycatcher males in 100% gap-less 
northern hardwoods noted below - were the magnolia warblers found on both 
routes, perhaps 4 to 5 near Mt Rogers and 7 to 8 males (and 2 females) just 
north of Scales Gap (where the trailer / caretaker are).  These birds sound 
much like chestnut sided's in quality (in the field that is) but without the 
rolling dip sounds at the end of the chestnut-side song.  It is also shorter. 
They can also vary their song quite a bit.   Magnolias were at four of 7 points 
in the northern hardwoods with spruce component north of Scales gap.  

Hermit thrush is quite abundant.  Other rare / watch listers for VA were raven, 
winter wren, rb nuthatch, gc kinglet, and brown creeper.  What I will call 
black-cap chickadees, like in the Smokies, were not crazily abundant - heard at 
perhaps 4 of 30 stations.  I realize the possible mixing with Carolina chicka's 
however these birds still appear to have all the features (though Mike Tove 
suggests morphological features don't really stick - the very long tail, fully 
white side of head) but with only the two-parted or 'half' song, which I never 
hear from Carolina's...and with all the records up there, I'll stay with BC 
chickas as likely though of course possibly mixed.  The bloodline still seems 
to be there and memory enough to sing "fee bay" only - and to respond 
immediately to it.   

Common throughout for open area include towhee, robin, field / chipping / song 
sparrows, cedar wax, crows, goldfinch, turkey vulture overhead, and occasional 
ravens and house wrens at only one point near the Mt. Rogers openings.  Typical 
forest birds are in fact mostly the rare / watch list birds  noted above with 
juncos @ every stop, occasional bt green warbler, and very occasional blue 
headed vireos. 

Back to the least FC's - not to break the open areas only concept, but again - 
I observed five singing least flycatcher males all within 250 lateral meters 
and there are probably more out of earshot.  This is on an east-west section of 
the AT due south of the southern-most Scales balds and east of Wilson Creek  

Contrary again to the "open areas" habitat descriptor - these birds are in 
complete and total northern hardwoods forest though it's maturing 2nd growth.  
While Harry L, Merrill L, Marilyn W and others have noted this bird as being 
mostly in higher elevation open areas, and seemingly more so in large river or 
stream valleys - and I don't dispute that  - here again are males & females, 
clearly breeding in typical northern hardwoods, and approx 1/4 mile or more 
from the southern edge of the southern-most Scales or Wilson Creek open area to 
the north and west.  There isn't even a canopy gap near these birds as I went 
offtrail to look.  Curiously - I got no least FC's at all at any of the 30 
points in about 5 miles of survey along forest / shrub / open area edges on the 
peaks (which are all gentle & flat) but these are not valley openings, they are 
very wide, flat ridges & peaks.   This is not an NC record for Harry to be 
concerned about, but with this being
 my second of  two total observations of this bird in the southern Blue Ridge, 
I'll have to say:  dont exclude northern hardwoods as a habitat type for this 
I'm now leaning toward Mr. Patterson's notion that these birds might have such 
high site fidelity and that perhaps this was originally forested that has been 
cut into.  Perhaps, like the COSEWICK study (Canada) notes that Ceruleans 
warblers "are apparently unable to identify habitat destruction" and that they 
appear stay on their territories even if the habitat has been logged out - 
least FC's may also be staying on but with more success...otherwise, why the 
full scale forest interior locations?  This is only speculation and I've not 
studied these birds populations or what their forest / edge / opening use is - 
but there they are, and their use of this forest type is a fact.  And - its not 
in a stream valley or bottomland.  Its just interesting.  

Kevin Caldwell
Conservation Biologist 
Mountains-to-Sea Ecological, Inc.

Marshall NC 

Other related posts:

  • » [Bristol-Birds] Fw: Mt Rogers, VA: more Least Flycatchers in forested areas and Magnolia Warblers galore - Wallace Coffey