Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
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Site MPO09: Warbler Road
Elevation: 3548 ft. Appropriately named, Warbler Road traverses 13 miles of old-growth hardwood forests, hemlock-lined trout streams, open meadows and clearings, and pine stands. From the overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Warbler Road's end at the James River, the altitude of this road descends a total of 2700 feet. The variation of habitat and elevation make this site a particularly attractive birding venue. At high elevations, nesting neotropical migrants include Canada, chestnut-sided, black-throated blue, and Blackburnian warblers, as well as veery, rose-breasted grosbeak, and ruffed grouse. Occasionally, least flycatcher or black-billed cuckoo will nest within these woodlands. Middle elevations can be productive for cerulean and worm-eating warblers. Hillside clearings can produce Kentucky and prairie warblers, yellow-breasted chat, and possibly golden-winged warbler. At lower elevations, look for northern parula and black-throated green warbler. Spring migration is a spectacular season to search for migrant passerines. In the spring, in addition to finding the plethora of nesting songbirds hoping to establish territories, you may spy blackpoll, Cape May, and Tennessee warblers. Other wildlife abounds, so while on this driving tour, keep an eye out for the numerous white-tailed deer, the sly red fox, or a slithering black rat snake crossing the road.
From Natural Bridge, continue west on SR 130 less than 0.1 miles to US 11/Lee Highway. Turn left on US 11/Lee Highway; proceed 1.8 miles south to I-81. Go south on I-81 for 8.1 miles to Exit 167. Go left on US 11/Main Street; travel south for 1.3 miles to SR 43. Turn left onto SR 43 and continue 4.7 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Go north on the Blue Ridge Parkway for 12.7 miles to Sunset Field Overlook, at milepost 78.4, on the left. From the parking lot of Sunset Field Overlook, take Rt. 812 for 5.8 miles and turn left onto FR 768. After 2.7 miles, turn right onto FR 59/North Creek Road and follow this road for 2.9 miles to Rt. 614. Turn right onto Rt. 614 and drive 1.6 miles to the James River. This drive, from Sunset Field Overlook to the James River, is referred to as "Warbler Road."