Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail
- Site Contact: Danny and Nancy Johnson; (540) 586-3707
- Site Access: Open 12pm-5pm daily, other times by appointment
- Visit Website
Site MPO11A: Johnson's Orchards-Peaks of Otter Winery
Elevation: 812 ft. While you may be interested in birding this site, take time to admire the amazing scenery and vistas from this site. At the base of the mountain from Peaks of Otter, the Johnsonís Orchards truly provide an amazing view of the natural beauty of the area. When you look out across the farm and see the cabins and fields, you may feel youíve stepped into the past. While youíre here, donít just bird, take the opportunity to sample the local produce, jams and jellies, and wines at the Peaks of Otter Winery shop. This could be a site where you stay for awhile and feel a need to revisit time and again. The Johnsonís Orchards is a working farm that has been in the same family since 1918. The ancestral farm known as ďThe Johnson FarmĒ has been restored as part of an interpretive project along the Blue Ridge Parkway at the top of the mountain from the current farm. While large tracts of the farm are dedicated to orchards, grape vines, cattle, horses, goats, llamas, sheep, guineas, ducks, pheasants, peacocks and a host of other farm animals, over 50 acres have been planted in wild meadows and riparian buffer trees. Trails away from the commercial parts of the farm take you to three ponds on the property that provide unique opportunities in this mountain community to see kingfisher, northern shovelers and a host of other water-related birds. The nearby forested areas bring a variety of woodland species into the farm such as eastern towhees, yellow-throated warblers and wood thrushes. The large expanse of fields and meadows provide opportunities to see meadowlark, field sparrows, killdeer, song sparrows, several species of swallows. Eastern bluebirds abound here and if you watch carefully, you are likely to see red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks here. During fall migration any numbers of raptor species are likely to be gliding past on their migration south. During winter months watch the fields for a northern harrier hunting the pastures and meadows. During spring and summer months, listen for spring peepers, green frogs, and pickerel frogs singing from the ponds and wet areas. Any time of year you are likely to see white-tailed deer on the farm and while bears are not an everyday occurrence, it is always a possibility.
From Claytor Nature Study Center return to SR 43. Turn right on SR 43 North and continue for .8 miles to Rt. 682 Kelso Mill Road. Turn left on Rt. 682 Kelso Mill Road and continue for 3.5 miles to Rt. 680 Sheep Creek Road. Turn right on Rt. 680 Sheep Creek Road and continue 1.0 miles to the sign for Johnsonís Orchards on the left. (Winery signs will also lead you to the farm.)