I have to be careful when I tell people that I "go hiking", because they often assume that my purpose is to hike, as in "to get from point A to point B". If I ignored birds and all wildlife, and did not carry a camera, then I might hike that way. But it is very difficult for me to ignore birds or any wildlife, and I nearly always carry my camera, so my objective when I hike is definitely not focused on getting from point A to point B. In fact, if anyone ever suggests that it would be cool to accompany me on a hike, I immediately warn them about what I like to call "birdwatching pace". When I hike, I am slow. Really slow. Any bird song, or movement, or wildlife in general, will distract me and may result in incessant photographic attempts. It is not uncommon for me to average about 1 mile per hour when I hike. If the chosen trail is 6 miles long, then prepare for 6 hours of hiking that is punctuated by frequent stops to listen, look and photograph. I really enjoy the heck out of whatever trail I happen to hike :-)
Three of the last four weekends I have managed to get out to the mountains of Virginia and combine a hike with birdwatching and photography. Two of the three were on the South River Falls Trail within Shenandoah National Park. I really enjoy getting out to the mountains during spring migration because of the increased odds of seeing something more interesting. Last year I even caught a glimpse of an American Black Bear.
This, and the next few posts, will include photos from these trips. For this post, I elected to share one of the more common warblers that occur in the mountains of Virginia. As you descend in elevation in Virginia, the Chestnut-sided Warbler becomes less common to the point of being absent. But "on top" of the mountains, they are everywhere. Their "pleased pleased pleased to meetcha!" song rings out from all over the place. In the spring, when I arrive at the trail head for South River Falls Trail and get out of my car, the song of the Chestnut-sided Warbler is nearly always the one I hear first.