Birding on Farm View Trail

Our final outing for the summer consisted of a delightful Labor Day Weekend bird walk along one of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s newest routes: Farm View Trail. A partial loop trail that winds through the fields and forests of the old Thompson Farm and meanders along the Blackwater River, there are a few areas on the lower loop where you are surrounded by nature and cannot see a vehicle, house or ski slope. A rare spot indeed for the middle of the Valley! We were lucky to avoid the chances of rain and just have some big clouds and sunshine for our outing.

Although it was not the ideal time of day, some attendees commented that they were glad that the walk was closer to noon and not at six in the morning. While we would have likely seen more migratory birds in the early morning, we still saw plenty of birds on our midday walk. (And if you’re really hankering for that pre-dawn bird walk, there is still hope! Come join our bird walk outing led by WVHC board member Jackie Burns at our Energy-In-WV-themed Annual Fall Review at North Bend State Park at 6AM on Oct. 15.) During this time of year, many migratory birds are making their sojourns south, passing through Appalachia’s mountains and valleys as they seek warmer climes in Mexico and Central/South America.

Our bird walk was led by WV birding expert LeJay Graffious. LeJay has worked with many birding organizations across Appalachia, including Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, Brooks Bird Club, Mountaineer Chapter of National Audubon, and Allegheny Front Migratory Observatory (AFMO) on top of Dolly Sods. He is also the Director of Old Hemlock Foundation in Preston County, WV, a historic property with virgin hemlock trees. By the way, if you have never been to the bird banding station at Allegheny Front Migratory Observatory near Red Creek Campground, you are missing out! While the station did not open this season, they will be back in action in Fall 2023. 

The group didn’t make it far out of the Beall Lane parking lot before binoculars were raised and mutterings of the type of species were heard. Farm View Trail offers many stunning views of Canaan Valley and a nice mix of habitat for birds, animals and insects. Some birds prefer the rolling fields or the powerlines. Others were spotted most often careening about in the fruits at the tops of the cherry trees (here’s looking at you, Cedar Waxwings). A couple species were seen soaring high above the valley floor. All in all, the group spotted 22 different species of birds. LeJay helped us spot and identify birds with ease and he took careful notes.

While some birds have flashy colors and are easier to spot, others are not so apparent and took some time to locate, even with the help of others in the group. And while some of the birds that were spotted were viewable by everyone in the group, there were still birds that fit into the rare sighting category. In fact, WVHCs board president, Larry “Hawkeye” Thomas, spotted a rare Nashville Warbler in a thicket near the Thompson’s old quarry. I made up that nickname but Larry does get credit for spotting this unique gold, gray and white songbird. The warbler was likely headed to spend winter in Mexico. I thought about following along but decided against it…no wings, ya know?

We intend to host more bird walks next year and encourage everyone who visits Dolly Sods between August and October to check in from sunrise to about 11 AM at the  Allegheny Front Migratory Observatory bird banding station. It is truly a special project and something that kids and adults alike will surely enjoy. As always, we would love to hear feedback from our membership and if you’d like to help lead an outing, please let me know! Happy Autumn, everyone. Enjoy the (much easier to see) leaf peeping.

Bird Tally

11 Canada Goose

2 Mourning Dove

2 Ruby-throated Hummingbird

1 Turkey Vulture

1 Cooper’s Hawk

2 Northern Flicker

4 Eastern Phoebe

5 Blue Jay

5 American Crow

1 Common Raven

2 Black-capped Chickadee

2 White-breasted Nuthatch

2 Eastern Bluebird

1 American Robin

52 Cedar Waxwing

5 American Goldfinch

2 Chipping Sparrow

3 Field Sparrow

1 Savannah Sparrow

3 Song Sparrow

1 Nashville Warbler

5 Common Yellowthroat