Welcome to Discover Front Royal’s “Discover-y” blog series! As spring weather begins to lift our spirits and tempt us outdoors, we’re turning the focus to the fantastic natural world around us. This series will feature a monthly post on the outdoor world around the Shenandoah Valley. Today’s topic: spring birds of the Shenandoah Valley!
Read on for some recommendations of birding spots in the Front Royal area. We’ve also included a list of five favorite birds that beginner and experienced birders alike will enjoy observing this spring (and even late winter if you are eager to get out there!).
Birding in the Front Royal Area
The Front Royal area is home to some fantastic spots for birding. An obvious place to start is the famed Shenandoah National Park. With its mountain-ridge location and plenteous forest habitat, the Shenandoah National Park is a magnet for migratory birds. The Dickey Ridge Visitor Center Area, just five miles from the Front Royal entrance station, is a top recommendation for bird-watching. Explore the trails in this part of the park if you’re in search of some spring bird sightings. See here for a further list of the park’s best hikes for birdwatching enthusiasts.
Another highly recommended spot for bird-watching around Front Royal is the Blandy Arboretum. The 700 acres of the arboretum include a variety of habitats, making it a great destination for wildlife enthusiasts of all kinds. Explore on your own, or consider checking out the arboretum’s educational programs. There are several birding offerings, which could be a great fit whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned birder looking for some company and fresh perspective on your birding adventures.
Finally, to view a diverse range of birds including waterfowl, don’t forget to check out some of the riverside locations around Front Royal. Shenandoah River State Park is a commonly recommended destination for bird enthusiasts. And if you head to Eastham Park you can take a birding walk along the Shenandoah River without even having to leave town.
1. Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebirds are one of the few brightly colored birds you may sight around the Front Royal area in the dead of winter. While many birds leave the area in the fall, Eastern Bluebirds can be seen all year long. If you head out birding before spring has really started, Eastern Bluebirds are a great species to look out for. The pop of blue and rusty red will brighten any late-winter’s landscape.
A late winter birdsong to listen for is the “FEE-BEE” mating call of the Black-Capped Chickadee. Male Chickadees can begin to make this call as soon as late January. You’ll start to hear it more and more often as spring approaches. The Shenandoah Valley area is home to two species of Chickadees: Carolina and Black-Capped. The two are so closely related that they can interbreed. When they do, the offspring have the fascinating ability to make the distinctive bird call of both species.
3. Black-and-white Warbler
The sound of birdsong is a well-known hallmark of the return of spring. But did you know that in the Shenandoah Valley, it’s often the Black-and-White Warbler who’s the first to announce the end of winter. This distinctive, black-and-white striped bird is one of the first migratory birds to arrive in Shenandoah National Park each year. Hearing or seeing this bird is a sure sign than spring has finally come. Black-and-white warblers are also known for their “creeping” movement as they explore tree trunks in search of food.
4. Cerulean Warbler
The Cerulean Warbler used to be one of the more common birds of the lower Mississippi valley. In recent years, numbers have declined, and Cerulean Warblers are now a much rarer sight. One of the best places to spy them is Shenandoah National Park. Every spring, birding enthusiasts head to the park from miles around in hopes of laying eyes on one of these cheerful, bright blue songbirds. You’ll need to look hard and upwards! Cerulean Warblers generally prefer the higher part of the forest canopy.
5. Baltimore Oriole
The riverside trail at Eastham Park is a great spot for spring sightings of plentiful Baltimore Orioles. These brilliantly colored song-birds love to make their spring nests in the sycamores by the Shenandoah River. Take a stroll on the walking trail and keep your eyes peeled for the Baltimore Oriole’s attention-grabbing flash of orange.
Exploring nature and birding is a great spring pursuit. Once you get hooked, you can even bring the birds to your own backyard, and watch them right out of your window.
Consider putting up a bird feeder or nesting box this spring for bird-watching fun that keeps on going even after you get home. You’ll be helping out the Shenandoah Valley’s feathered friends too!
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