Bountiful Birds - Monterey, VA

We kicked off spring in lovely Monterey, VA again this year, and wow, we were blessed with a bounty of beautiful birds.  We love visiting the quaint and peaceful retreat of the Wilson House in picturesque Monterey, Va. We fell in love with Monterey, VA a few years ago with its wide open spaces, rolling hills, lush farmland as far as the eye can see, and scenic country roads.  We especially love photographing wildlife and birds in Monterey, VA. It never disappoints, but this year was exceptional with the variety of birds we saw and photographed.  We have seen 55 different birds on our visits to the Wilson house, and many of them appeared on the Wilson House property.  But this time, we saw a  few birds that we have never seen before ever - the Caped May Warbler, Common Yellow Throated Warbler, and a Bicknel's Thrush.

We saw many of the birds that frequent the Wilson House each time we visit. The American Goldfinches were just radiant this year and were the most abundant with Red-winged Blackbirds not far behind.  Our friends the Downy Woodpecker and Red-belled Woodpecker visited throughout our trip with an occasional Red-Headed Woodpecker and Pileated Woodpecker. The Barn Swallows dive-bombed the barn in the pasture at their usual crazy pace with an occasional Bobolink nearby. The Eastern Towhee came by for a bite to eat and sang a few songs along with the Brown-headed Nuthatch, American Tree Sparrow, the Gray Catbird, and the Black-capped Chickadee. 

It was a rare treat to see quite a few families of birds.  We have seen the Indigo Bunting a few times on previous visits, but this time we saw adult males in all their brilliant blues, juvenile males at various stages, and few females. We also encountered the same with the Rose-breasted Grosbeak,the Goldfinches and the Brown-headed Cowbird.  When the males and females got together, the fun began as the lady birds were a little feisty which made great photos and also kept the colorful male birds around as they seemed captivated by their ladies.

Our most exciting moments were photographing the Caped May Warbler, Ruby-throated Humming bird, Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, and a Bald Eagle.  This is the first time we got a really good shot of a humming bird.  After being buzzed a few times on the porch, we got down to business, and set up very close to the apple tree in camouflage and waited. It was nearing the end of our vacation, and we had gotten a lot of great photos of birds, and we were contemplating taking a break when this vibrant golden bird, the Caped May Warbler, showed up in the apple blossoms.  While we are photographing this bird we had never seen before, not one but two humming birds joined the party in the apple tree. Our set up did the trick. The humming birds feasted for several minutes and even sat on branch a couple of times while sipping from the blossoms.  It was amazing.

The Scarlet Tanager and the Baltimore Oriole are birds we rarely see, and we have never gotten a really good photo until this year.  They both visited the Wilson House this year and even seemed to pose for the camera with a beautiful backdrop of the apple tree in full bloom. What beautiful birds!

During our visits to Monterey, VA, we have heard a lot about Golden and Bald Eagles frequenting the area, and we have even seen a few, but we still haven't gotten a great picture. We were talking to the neighbor from Fairlawn Farm, and he said there are nests nearby and Bald Eagles recently snatched a trout from his pond and headed for the hills, probably to feed their babies nearby.  We'd love to get a photo of that! He also gave us a tip on where the eagles hang out.  We made a trip down to the area with no sightings then tried again, and there was a juvenile Bald Eagle fighting with a vulture right near our car, which was too close for a picture, but so awesome to see.  We saw two full grown bald Eagles a far off but again not an great photograph.  So, we took a scenic drive and came back around.  We spotted an almost mature Bald Eagle feeding in a tree, caught him in flight, and getting a sip from the creek. It was truly amazing the size, the claws, and fierceness of this bird.

We spent much of the time at the farmhouse because the bird activity was absolutely fabulous.  Usually, we set out bird seed, and it takes a couple of days for the birds to get used you being around photographing them.  They must have been some hungry birds because they came around quickly and in droves and didn't seem too bothered by our presence. Even in the rain, they were even more active feeding and flitting around.  It was incredible. We went through 110 pounds of bird seed, by the end of our trip we were very low. Troy swears this Chipmunk stood up on the porch in front of him and motioned to him to put out more seed where he was eating.

We ventured out a couple days. We visited Fair Lawn Farm in Monterey VA. The folks who own it are Tim and Terry Duff. They have a wonderful farm with sheep. Tim makes homemade maple syrup and runs all kind of classes on how to make to name a few. Tim was the former Highland County’s Sheriff and has since taken up operating a gentleman's farm. He spends his days running the farm and giving tours and classes. They have been working around the clock birthing baby lambs, and we were able to hold a lamb that was born that day, and also bottle feed a lamb.  They were absolutely adorable. We were able to get a quick tour of their gorgeous restored farmhouse, pick up their famous smoke Gouda cheese and farm fresh eggs.

On one of trips out, we visited the Bath County Recreational Campground where we often find a Eastern Bluebird family battling out with Tree Swallows protecting their babies in the bird box. This year was no exception. They were at it full force.  It looked like that babies hadn't hatched as Momma Bluebird was spending a lot of time in the box. It is crazy how the Tree Swallows constantly are trying to take over the bird box which is obviously occupied. 

The Tree Swallows even go inside the box, and the Momma Bluebird has to poke them out.  As odd as it seems, we are thankful that they do so because it makes for great photos.  Bluebirds tend to be a little shy of people, so having the bothersome Tree Swallow battles keeps the Bluebirds coming around.  We also saw a female Common Merganser and some monster size carp feeding on the grass in the pond.

Another day, we ventured out to Spruce Knob Tower, the highest point in West Virginia.  The overlook from the tower has been overgrown with trees, but it would be awesome for viewing stars. There was a nice short trail that gave you a better view of the landscape.  We saw another bird we haven't seen before, Bicknel's Thrush hopping around beneath the trees. We also saw a Yellow Rumped Warbler and a really funny shaped tree that you could sit on. We started down the road less traveled to check out the lake, but it was not a well maintained road and apparently the lake was pretty far (hard to tell without signage), so we skipped that, stopped at The Gateway Restaurant for some delicious homemade pies and headed back to the farmhouse.

We took a trip to the "big city" of Staunton, VA for dinner. We enjoyed some top notch fine dining at Zynodoa Restaurant, and more casual comfort food at Baja Bean Co. with fresh California style Mexican food with great value and service. We meandered around the city admiring its historic architecture and some hidden gems throughout the area and did a little shopping.

We always have an awesome time at the Wilson House in Monterey VA.  It has delightful scenic views, a friendly dog from next door, a slower pace, and bustle of bird and wildlife activity.