The Birds of Monterey VA

This Spring we started out the year the right way, with a 11 day vacation. We knew we were going to be hit hard this summer with work since Kim opened up her own business. So needless to say, we saw lots of work coming our way.

We packed up the camera gear and hit the road to Monterey Virginia. We stayed once again at the Wilson House in Monterey VA. We are always excited to go there. The scenery is breathtaking, and the wildlife is second to none.

The town of Monterey is about a 15 minute drive away and has all your amenities you will need for your stay. If you need major groceries, you will need to take a 30 minute drive to Mitchelltown VA. We don't mind taking the trip to the store because the views are outstanding with lush green meadows and picturesque rolling hills. There are so many places to see, and the area is steeped in history. We like to stop by Jefferson Pools which is a neat historic place in Warm Springs VA. If you are a history buff, you will love this area of Virginia. If you are a photographer, you will want to move to this part of Virginia.  Believe me, we have thought about it!!

One of the main reasons we drive five hours to Monterey VA is for the photography. It is one of the most beautiful places we visit for bird photography. It never lets us down. Even during bad weather, we still take impressive photographs.

We have several places we visit to shoot bird photography. One of them is Bath County Recreational Campground. This is where we took all of the Bluebird and Tree Swallow photos with the Bluebird house. You could get so close to the Tree Swallows, you could reach out and grab them, literally. I had to move back far away to even capture a photograph with the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Super Telephoto Lens because I was so close to them.

The lead photo on this post is one of my best shots ever. Getting this Bluebird photo was a thrill for me. It is a classic photograph of a Bluebird in flight that I had seen before on-line that I was hoping I could capture myself.  Not only did I get the photograph with the Bluebird looking back over their shoulder in flight. For an added bonus, I captured it with the female peering out of the Bluebird box at the same time.  I was excited to say the least.

After we spent quite a productive day fishing on Bath County Recreational ponds, we were lucky enough to stumble of a feud between Bluebirds and Tree Swallows.  Apparently, the Tree Swallows, as they often do, decided it was time that they nested in the Bluebird box.  So, the Tree Swallows kept claiming the box and poking its head into Bluebird box at the babies.  Between the continual hunt for food for the babies and running off the Tree Swallows, we were the least of their worries, and we were able to get some interesting photographs right in the middle of the action. 

Since I am shooting bird photography all the time, on this trip, Kim has made herself the Macro photographer. She is getting fantastic photographs and subject matter while learning as she goes with impressive results, I might add. If you would like to see more detail of our camera settings, you can see the EXIF data from the photos by using this add-on EXIF data for Firefox users. Kim learned a little trick of putting a small pen light flash light under flowers to illuminate them from underneath, which makes all the difference in the shot. She did awesome on the Wild Iris photos. There is so much amazing things to see in wildlife that we miss every day in the Macro world. It is mind boggling to see it all. Kim moves slowly and looks around until something catches her eye. Sometimes it might just be a colorful flower, but upon further inspection, she might see a White Crab Spider on it. She did take some awesome Macro Photography shots this time around.

While we didn't see a large numbers of birds on our this visit to Monterey Virginia, we saw much more variety including Baltimore Orieles, Indigo Buntings, Scarlet Tangers, Cat birds. I saw birds I have never seen before in my life.  This is really unusual because my family says I am quite a bird expert. One of those birds was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo bird. I caught a glimpse of it in a tree at the Wilson House in Monterey VA. I saw a tail flicker, and I knew I hadn't seen this bird before.

Upon closer (10x Zoom) inspection from a photograph that I took from very far away, I was able to identify it. There was only one thing to do. I got out my phone...Nope. I wasn't going to call the bird...or was I. Actually I was going to call the bird, but with an App I had bought called IBird Pro. This App is quite realistic for calling in a bird. Your phone isn't loud enough to call a bird, so you will need to purchase a Bluetooth Speaker to call birds with the app.

I had bought one called the Skullcandy Barricade Bluetooth Wireless Portable Speaker. This thing is LOUD, water proof, and rechargeable. I chose the black colored speaker so it would blend in and not scare birds with bright colors. I set up the speaker near a tree, connected my phone to it via Bluetooth, cranked up my IBird App, and started calling this bird. I finally got a decent photograph of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo bird. They didn't come too close though. We tried this same trick on a Baltimore Oriole. I put the speaker on the wire fence post, the bird flew right beside it, and eyed that speaker. He immediately knew that sound was coming from there and wasn't a bird. So, he soon flew back up into the trees. We had lots of fun with these new toys, but we were careful not to over work them on the bird or aggravate them with attack and mating calls. We just made a few calls to get them close enough to photograph, and it worked like a charm.

We ventured out a couple days just sightseeing areas we haven't visited yet. One of those places was Blackwater Falls State Park, WV. We took about an 1.5 hour ride to get there, but it was well worth it. It was a beautiful place and as always, Kim can't get enough of the waterfalls. We strolled around the area seeing several different waterfalls and a huge Lodge. We saw deer everywhere. You could tell visitors have been feeding them. Instead of be startled by visitors they seem rather pleased to see you. We also frequented some of our favorite sites, a play at the Shakespeare Theater and amazing dinner in Staunton, VA.

On the way back to the Wilson House in Monterey VA, we stopped by a neighbors house who sells fresh eggs that are out of this world. These folks own a farm called 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 a Great Pyrenees dog named Clancey who will want to play with you until the sun goes down.  I can say if you have never been to Monterey VA, you are missing one of the most beautiful places on earth. If you don't believe me, take a ride down Meadowdale Rd, Monterey, VA 24465 and just keep going