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Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail

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  • Site Contact: (540) 231-3484 sleslie@vt.edu
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Site MED01: Virginia Tech Campus and Smithfield Plantation Area

Description

Elevation: 2029 ft. Located in the heart of Blacksburg, the Virginia Tech campus offers a multitude of habitats that house a diversity of wildlife. In addition to small sections of hardwood forest, this site offers open fields, several ponds, and flowing creeks. The Duck Pond, located near the Smithfield Plantation, is an excellent spot to find green and great blue herons, as well as black-crowned night-heron. Red-eyed vireo and northern flicker can be found in prolific numbers taking summer residence in the surrounding trees. However, this site may be best during migration and in the winter. Shorebirds such as greater yellowlegs, least and spotted sandpipers may be found here during the fall. Wintering waterfowl can include ring-necked duck and bufflehead. Other winter visitors to the campus pond in years past include American pipit and common snipe. Spring migration can be fruitful, as well, producing migrant warblers, vireos, and flycatchers such as willow flycatcher. In summer, the Duck Pond is a good study site for damselflies. Look along weedy edges and shrub-lined banks for eastern red damsel, blue-fronted and variable dancers, fragile and Rambur's forktails, and familiar bluet. The tiny eastern amberwing dragonfly is abundant on this pond. Smithfield Plantation, built in 1774 by Colonel William Preston, is a beautifully restored house next to the Virginia Tech Campus. The house is open to the public for tours and is surrounded by wonderful grassland habitat. William Ballard Preston, the grandson of Colonel Preston, is the namesake of Preston and Olin Institute, from which Virginia Tech later evolved. There are trails in place throughout the campus, extending outward to less urban communities, with plans to further develop the trail system. While common city birds such as American robin, blue jay, and northern mockingbird may make up the majority of a bird list, keep an eye out for unusual visitors. Northern goshawks have wintered on campus, and barn owls have nested in trees uphill from the pond.

Directions

From I-81 near Christiansburg, take Exit #118B to US 460 West. Follow US 460 West for 9.0 miles to SR 412/Prices Fork Road in Blacksburg. Turn right on to SR 412/Prices Fork Road and follow it for 0.6 miles to West Campus Drive. Turn right onto West Campus Drive for 0.2 miles to the Smithfield Plantation area on the right.

Loop Map