Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Birding Daniel Boone National Forest: Lifer #455

On Saturday, June 6, my wife and I headed down to Daniel Boone National Forest to seek out a Swainson’s Warbler. This would be a lifer for both of us (lifer #455 for me) and really the first chance that either of us has had to find this species. We left home at 5:30am for the hour and forty-five minute drive to our first stop, Natural Bridge State Park.

Natural Bridge is one of Kentucky’s oldest state parks and is a fantastic place to hike and to find breeding warblers during the summer months. In addition to the Swainson’s Warbler that we were looking for, the park has Hooded, Kentucky, Black-throated Green, Pine, Black-and-white and Worm-eating Warblers, and Ovenbird as well as a few others. It was immediately evident that the park contained a large concentration of Hooded Warblers as you can hear them singing as soon as you enter the park.

Most of the trails start by the inn so we parked there and went in to pick up a trail map so that we wouldn’t get lost. We set off down the trail and quickly found nearly all of the breeding warblers. I had heard that one of the best places to find Swainson’s Warbler was along the start of Battleship Rock Trail so that is where we began our search. The habitat along the trail is great for this species and it did not take long until I heard the first individual singing. Unfortunately, seeing this species is not quite so easy.

We continued a little farther along this trail and heard one more individual, but we again could not find the bird. We decided to go back and continue along the Original Trail and check out the natural bridge. Along this trail we had many of the species that I have already mentioned and were also able to find a Louisiana Waterthrush and a surprising Chestnut-sided Warbler. It was a semi-difficult hike since it was uphill most of the way, but the views once we got to the bridge were worth it.

As we approached the bridge, we found a Worm-eating Warbler sitting out in the open that allowed us to view it for several minutes until another person came along and scared it off. As I attempted to follow the bird, another bird popped into view. It was my lifer Swainson’s Warbler. It only stayed for a few seconds but I got amazing looks at this highly secretive species! Unfortunately, my wife did not get to see this individual, but we will definitely be back to this area.

Once on top of the bridge, we found a pair of Pine Warblers feeding their fledglings. We were able to watch from very close range as the adults were too busy feeding their hungry babies to even notice us. It was the first time I had ever observed this species with young.

After a couple more hours of hiking, we headed over to the Red River Gorge to have our picnic and take another hike. This area has many of the same birds as the state park, and we did not end up adding any species while birding here. The highlight of our hike was seeing the only natural bridge in the Red River Gorge that is created by a river. After almost 4 miles of hiking, we headed for home exhausted but very happy with our awesome day of birding!

The following pictures are a few of my favorites from the day.

View of Natural Bridge from below.

Tiny passage way that you must travel through to make it up to the top of the natural bridge.

View of Natural Bridge from a scenic lookout.

For those who are unable or unwilling to make the hike,
a Skylift is available to take you to the top.

Worm-eating Warbler

Rock Bridge in the Red River Gorge


Dawn Fine said...

Nice hike! and a life bird too!
I have subscribed via email and hope to see more of your birding adventure..

Glennis said...

This is a nice scenic place, nice to see the little bird along the way. The narrow aisle you must walk along seems almost too narrow to squeeze through, would make it a more exciting hike doing different things like that.

Ebie said...

You have a good eye, even the little one hiding, you were able to capture it!

SaraG said...

Great photo's!
My hubby's mom was born and raised near the natural bridge!!
it is such a beautiful place to see and visit.
Awesome photo's you got!!
Take care and have a great weekend.

Bradley Hsi said...

It sure look like a very nice place to visit. I am glade that there is sky lift to take people up to the natural bridge. Thanks for sharing the picture of the lovely bird, it must be hard to photograph it. By the way, thanks also for visiting our blog.

Kelly said...

Wow! A Swainson's Warbler...and what an impressive life list! Great narration. I could feel the excitement of the trip. We were at Natural Bridge last October...I love it there. Sounds like we need to go back to catch that Swainson's!!!