BIRDING ON SOUTH RIVER HIGHLANDS COUNTRY RETREAT
For the birder SRH offers multiple habitat and ecosystems. You might begin on the edges of the South River where we occasionally sight a Bald Eagle, often see Great Blues, and always can find ducks of many species. The open fields are home to meadow larks and hunting grounds for red tail hawks. The border territory where shrubs and young trees provide cover and food are home to numerous song bird species. The higher grasses and acorn edges feed one of the several bands of turkeys that can be seen or heard in season.
The woods are filled with the sounds of one of the five woodpecker species drumming or digging to open up a nesting site. And at night, owls large and small will send shivers down your back as they remind little mammals to hide carefully.
The most exciting time for however, is the spring when crazed red birds, insane blue birds, and flamboyant Wilsons’s Finches show off right outside the windows of the cabins. Seldom is seen anything more absurd than a male blue bird frantically trying to drive his own reflection away from car mirrors, house windows, and even reflections in water puddles.
For close to fourteen years, the farm was home to nature writer and naturalist, Christopher Camuto, who kept a bird list exceeding 120 species, including accidentals. And for many years we have been one of the posts for the annual bird count of Rockbridge area. That honor was because of being a known nesting site for barn owls and the multiple layers of habitat the farm hosts. It is unlikely you will find truly strange new additions to your life list, but certain that you will enjoy watching the life activities of many species in a habitat of protection and relative abundance.
We have attempted to encourage nesting and food habitat for endangered or struggling species for over a decade now. Our results are not promising although we have certainly improved the lives of countless more adaptable species. We still host only the rare, probably lonely and lost, bob white and have seen no nesting success by our blue birds where snakes are relentless hunters. It is a dilemma for nature lovers everywhere to figure out why these species and others are declining after being hugely abundant fifty years ago. Is it the ubiquitous planting of fescue in the hay fields? The loss of bramble cover? A disease, feral cats, forest destruction, the ending of hedge rows?
We have participated in several experiments to try and determine if any factor under our control can improve reproductive success or even existence for these threatened ones. So far there is no conclusive evidence that anything we have tried has been majorly successful. What has been obvious is that any effort to improve the success of rare species improves the success of all species. As a result, the number and health of a varied and joyful confederation of winged ones is our most gratefully received reward. Come, bring your binos and enjoy. Or simply listen in the hour before dawn to the wake up calls of our friends. Ah …peace.