In and Around Alleghany County
Alleghany Access to New River State Park – This location has a wonderful diversity of migrant songbirds in early May ranging from breeders such as Yellow Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak to birds destined for northern latitudes such as Blackpoll or Cape May Warblers. There are always birds associated with the river present like Mallards and Wood Ducks, and in winter one might see Green-winged Teal or Black Ducks as well. Winter Wrens, Swamp Sparrows, and even Golden Eagles might be seen on a given winter day.
Cheek Mountain – This site south of Sparta has a reputation for attracting Rough-legged Hawks and Golden Eagles in winter. Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels are two of the more abundant raptors that may also be seen there.
Doughton Park – While many species seen at Mahogany Rock Overlook may also be seen here, the lower elevations offer some species that will not be seen up on the crestline such as Acadian Flycatcher and Louisiana Waterthrush. Wood Thrush is more abundant down in the park’s valleys as well. Black-throated Green Warblers and Northern Parulas are common breeders as are Scarlet Tanagers. On dryer slopes, Ovenbird, Worm-eating, and Hooded Warblers can easily be found. The drumming of Ruffed Grouse can be heard from the floor of the valley along Basin Creek during early spring.
Mahogany Rock Overlook – This Blue Ridge Parkway overlook is a popular spot from which to view the fall raptor migration. Broad-winged Hawks appear there in mid- to late-September, sometimes forming kettles of several hundred or a few thousand birds. Other fall raptor species include Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Merlin, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk. In both spring and fall, there are good numbers of migrant songbirds including warblers, vireos, and tanagers. Occasionally in fall, a Red-headed Woodpecker or Olive-sided Flycatcher might be seen.
New River Trail State Park – This Virginia state park offers a wide variety of birds that either breed or migrate along its path. The park is a mostly linear feature that hugs the river for a total of over 60 miles. Whether you hike or bird by bike, it is a great spot to see both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles. Warbling Vireos are another specialty found here. In winter, various duck species of both the dabbling and diving variety can be found. Bald Eagles and Ospreys are found along its course and of course Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, and other birds strongly associated with water are quite common here.
Stone Mountain State Park – Species encountered here are often either those associated with moist, rhododendron covered Blue Ridge streams such as Louisiana Waterthrush and Acadian Flycatcher or else those found along dry ridges above such moist stream corridors and those would include Scarlet Tanager, Black-throated Green Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, and Hooded Warbler. Large flocks of vultures that include both Turkey and Black Vultures can be seen overhead, especially on trails traversing rock outcroppings. Wild Turkeys can often be encountered along trails and are more easily seen in winter when the lack of foliages exposes them on ridges where they are often in search of acorns.
Just Outside of the Alleghany County Line
Grayson Highlands State Park – This high-elevation site offers excellent birding with seasonal variation. Visitors should remember that when it is spring in earnest a couple thousand feet lower in elevation (or more) that it is just beginning up in the park. Warblers such as Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, and Canada have returned to the park by late May. Other breeding residents include Hermit Thrush and Saw-whet Owl. Fall offers some good birding from prominent spots such as Twin Pinnacles Overlook where one may see Cape May Warbler and other migrant species while also offering a glimpse at the raptor migration on days with no fog or low clouds.
W. Kerr Scott Dam & Reservoir – The highlight of year is in winter when various diving waterfowl including mergansers, grebes, and ducks such as Ring-necked, Lesser Scaup, and the rarer Goldeneye and Long-tailed Duck appear. Bald Eagles and Ospreys may be seen in spring and fall migration, with eagles being observed throughout the year. Various public accesses provide opportunities to see various migrant songbirds and resident breeders such as Northern Parula and Hooded Warbler.
Thurmond Chatham Gameland – This state property which is predominantly in Wilkes County offers a mix of young forest stands managed with fire and some older mature stands of hardwood that create a mosaic of attractive habitat. Various warbler species including Hooded, Black-throated Green, Black-and-White, Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Prairie, Yellow-throated, Black-throated Blue, and Northern Parula. In the winter months, Red Crossbills have been observed here as have Golden Eagles. Ravens can be heard overhead and breed locally.