This park, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a good spot to find breeding warblers, as well as raptors, ravens, and owls.
By Eric Harrold | Published: 6/15/2018
I’ve spent many hours birding and hiking at Doughton Park, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 25 miles of hiking trails traverse its elevation range, which reaches 3,800 feet near the Parkway on Bluff Mountain and descends to 1,425 feet in the valley of Basin Cove.
Forests in the park offer a variety of songbird species during the breeding season. Black-throated Green Warbler can be heard throughout most of the park. Listen for Ovenbird, Hooded and Worm-eating Warblers, and Scarlet Tanager along trail segments traversing ridges above the valley. Wood Thrush, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Yellow-throated Warbler sing in the valley along Basin Creek.
At the park’s lower entrance off of Longbottom Rd., early-successional habitat resulting from a fire about a decade ago has attracted Kentucky Warbler, which is an uncommon nesting species in the area. Thick rhododendron masses in the park’s upper elevations offer habitat attractive to Black-throated Blue Warbler. In early spring, listen for drumming Ruffed Grouse along most trail segments. It takes a bit of luck to lay eyes on the grouse. Wild Turkey, Eastern Screech-Owl, Common Raven and a variety of diurnal raptors can be viewed throughout the year.
Eric Harrold is a naturalist, environmental educator, and tour guide. He has written past reports on hotspots in Virginia and the Carolinas.
At a Glance
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Pastured meadows and ridge crests, mixed hardwood forests, pine-hardwood forest, and cove hardwood forest.
Ranges from relatively flat riparian segments to steep ridges.
Migration and breeding seasons: Acadian and Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Phoebe, Wood Thrush, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Black-and-white, Hooded, and Black-throated Blue Warblers, Dark-eyed Junco, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Scarlet Tanager, White-breasted Nuthatch, Indigo Bunting, Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos. Fall: migrant songbirds and raptors. Winter: Golden Eagle, Northern Saw-whet Owl.
When to go
Year-round. Best in spring and fall.
Public campground open from May to October. Camping, lodging, dining options are available in the nearby communities of Laurel Springs, Sparta, and Roaring Gap.
Park operated in conjunction with the Blue Ridge Parkway under the National Park Service. Open year-round and requires no entrance fee. In winter, access may be restricted as gates on the Parkway may be closed during periods of inclement weather.
To view fall raptor migration, go to the Mahogany Rock Overlook at milepost 235 or the park’s picnic area. Overlooks along the Parkway and the picnic area offer viewing opportunities for visitors with limited mobility.
For more info
Stone Mountain State Park
More than 14,000 acres, just east of Doughton Park. Accessible via John P. Frank Pkwy. Great for spring and fall songbird migration.
Thurmond-Chatham Game Land
Adjacent to Doughton Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Entrance is at Bell Branch Rd. Good spot for Hooded Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Ovenbird, and other woodland passerines.