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Public Radio Host Seth Williamson Visits His Favorite Bird Watching Spots

By Seth Williamson

Looking for some productive birding spots along the Parkway? I suggest a few locales that have been good to me over the last three decades.

bird-broad-wing-hawkIf good memories are the criterion, my favorite birding spot on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway has to be the pasture above and south of the camping area at Rocky Knob. The sight of hundreds, thousands of broadwings wheeling overhead in boiling kettles of raptors is one of the most unforgettable sights anywhere in the eastern United States. This pasture has witnessed many such spectacles, and it’s easily accessible from the Saddle parking area at milepost 168.

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A new one for me is the jeep trail that passes under the Parkway at Sweet Annie Holler, near milepost 138.6. This is a productive spot for both spring and fall warblers, including cerulean warblers and worm-eating warblers.

Try the “warbler theater” at the Smart View overlook near milepost 154. The parking area faces a brushy tract bordered by tall hardwoods. In the spring, this spot is alive with the songs of American redstarts and yellow-throated vireos. For several years there has been a nesting pair of red-bellied woodpeckers in a tall snag easily visible from the parking area.

bird-cerulean-warblerAlso, good for cerulean warblers, black-and-white warblers, eastern wood-pewees, black-throated green warblers and many others is the Smart View picnic area at milepost 169.

One of my favorite spots is the small wetlands just above Rakes Mill Pond at about 162.5. This is where I logged the only Floyd county record of an American bittern a few springs ago, and it also reliably produces great blue herons, green herons, wood ducks and a profusion of spring warblers. If you watch quietly enough and long enough, most days you will also be rewarded with the sight of beaver, mink, muskrat and mud turtle.

The Parkway is a destination for birders from all over the country – grab your binoculars and find out why. Thanks to the variety of habitat in my little stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway, life is exciting 365 days a year.

Seth Williamson, who lived in Floyd, VA and could be heard on “Morning Edition” and Morning Classics” on public radio station WVTF (89.1 FM) in Roanoke, passed away in 2011. He is fondly remembered by FRIENDS and his birding insights live on here for all.In Memorial - FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway

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