September, Swoope, Virginia: I live in such a beautiful place – It’s mostly grasslands and forests. In some places, one cannot see another dwelling in any direction. On most mornings in September, mist hugs the hollows and heavy dew blankets the ground. Cool nights and shorther days get things in the natural world moving; migrations of many animal species are in full swing.
Migrations – Raptors, Warblers, Monarchs and Buckeyes
Swallows and Swifts have already flown South and right now we are in the full swing of Raptor migration. The Rockfish Gap Hawkwatching station in Afton is one of the best places on the East coast to experience this phenological phenomenon. We can see Afton from Swoope, it’s a gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the East flank of America’s legendary Shenandoah Valley.
The excitement of seeing several hundred Broad-wing Hawks in one view of your binoculars can never be extinguished. “Oh, my God”! is heard often on the mountain as the Raptors rise up through a thermal in what is known as a “kettle”, then glide Southward without wingbeat into the unknown. I was there on September 17th when over 7,000 Broad-wing Hawks soared past.
Broad-wing Hawks nest throughout the Eastern United States and as far north as Canada during the summer and migrate South to Central and South America beginning in late August. The peak of their migration in Virginia is about the third week in September.
All the warblers are in migration. It’s a special treat when any warbler stops by to rest and refuel, right in the backyard. I was lucky to spot a group of about six Palm Warblers in the gardens and yard. They nest in Canada’s boreal forests during the summer and winter along the Gulf coast and in the Carribean.
Monarchs Fuel Up in Swoope
We leave as many milkweed plants as we can in the riparian and wildlife areas of the farm for Monarchs. The adults lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed plants and the caterpillars eat only milkweed leaves.
Buckeyes Migrate Too!
Native wingstem is a great pollinator plant. Buckeye butterflies seek out its nectar before migrating South.
Musings in Swoope
Jeanne is obsessed with removing invasive weeds on the farm. She keeps a corn knife beside her seat in the farm jeep and while checking the girls (cows), she will drive to any reamaining thistle and whack it down. If she spots a cocklebur, she will drive to it, get out, and pull it up by the root. I’ve seen the jeep full of cocklebur plants many times.
Jeanne and I are very passionate about a lot of things especially clean water. We support the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint and fight against corporate “takings” for profit – like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline which will no doubt damage our streams and alter water sources for many. Click on the buttons below to find out how you can help these causes.
© R. Whitescarver, all photos are copyrighted.
Bobby and Jeanne – What a great post. It shows a shared commitment to total natural resource conservation. I’m amazed at the hawk migration. Thanks for supporting the pollinators. Great photos.
Thanks as always Roger!
Thanks Bobby and Jeanne for all you do! I’m always thrilled to learn a myriad of new things with every post. Keep up the great works. One farm at a time!
Thanks George. Hope you are doing great.
Your postings are beautiful and inspiring. Thankyou for sharing!
Thanks Beatrice, looking forward to visiting your farm.
Great photos, I especially love the Hawks!
Thank you Anita!
Outstanding new layout, Bobby, and extraordinary photos. Your coverage of this season is so thorough and informative. All so supportive for us to take action in whatever way we can. Thank you!
Thanks Deidra for stopping in and for your kind words.
Thanks for these photos and musings! I think I had a broad wing hawk in my yard (I couldn’t figure out what it was), and the crows chased it away. Does that sound plausible?
Carolyn, that sounds very plausible. The thousands of Raptors have to sleep and refuel somewhere.
Your post is both church and naturalist meeting news for our September meeting today. Much rather warblers than tweets! Thank you for all your well-grounded activism!
No, thank you Sandy for all the inspiration and energy you give us all. You are the fuel that keeps our engines going.
Your hawk migration count reminds me of the two guys on a train out west, passing a huge herd of cattle. One guy says “wow, I wonder how many cattle in and that herd?” The other guy says “6,484” and his buddy says “how would you know that? You couldn’t have counted them. Whereas, the other replied, “Nope, I counted their legs and divided by four”. ?
Ha! David. Very good story!
Thanks Bobby! Terrific post! Would love to join you one day for hawk watching!
Beth, I would really enjoy that. Hope to see you soon.
Wonderful post Bobby!
Beautiful and educational, as always!
Abbe, thank you. Hope to see you soon.
Thank you, Bobby and Jeanne,
What an inspiring Photographic Treat beautifully composed! You two are the epitome of what our country desperately needs…hundreds of thousands of likeminded, knowledgeable, caring family farmers and ranchers ‘back ‘on the land’ farming/ranching in healthiest ways for the land and all Life on Earth!
I, like many aware of your Good Work on so many fronts, in so many ways, am mighty Grateful.
Best to you Jeanne and You, Don
Don, you indeed completed your comment here, just took me a while to get to it. Hope you are doing great and thank you so much for taking the time to send such positive vibes our way. We so miss you here in the Commonwealth.
What an exceptionally uplifting post! This was waiting in my e-mail Inbox after wrapping up an Aldo Leopold-themed program “Land, People, & Community: A Sand County Almanac Revisited”for Capital Region Land Conservancy which included reading Leopold’s Marshland Elegy about the Sandhill Cranes. Our discussion groups touched on encounters with congregations of species, particularly related to life cycle events. So how perfect to follow that with these beautiful images and thoughts. Thank you.
Laura, thank you! for your uplifting message. I am so proud of you for leading that group, I wish I could have been there. Keep up the great work and hope to see you soon.
This is probably already on your calendar, but Valley Conservation Council’s similar program is coming up October 18th: https://valleyconservation.org/events/
Bobby: I really enjoyed your latest blog and its clever new layout. Your information is nearly as diverse as the Valley you promote. Thank you for being such a champion of all things “natural, wild, and free.”
Let’s do a program someday together on native ethnobotany: e.g.,jewelweed as a traditional Native American remedy for poison ivy rash – can even be frozen to make a winter-time poulstice. And how about those nectaries for hummingbirds? Wouldn’t such a program be fun?
Thanks for stopping in Bruce and for your kind words. It would be a pleasure to team up with you!
The first thing that comes to mind after reading this is my idea of environmental conservation. My first thought of environmental conservation and health involves farming, agriculture, bodies of water, etc, not so much migration of species. Seeing all of these pictures and photos of the various species in Swoope reminds me of how minuscule humans are in comparison to the vast amount of organisms we share this world with despite our growing numbers in the population. BUT, due to our large population, we are able to negatively affect our world. There is so much to consider when keeping conservation and sustainability in mind in order to improve and maintain our Earth’s health. Each species, each animal, each plant, each rock, each river, has an essential part to its ecosystem and its health. We must realize our place and how to disturb natural processes as little as possible.
Hannah, your comment is so well written…and eloquent…thank you.
The Rockfish Gap Hawkwatching station in Afton sounds pretty amazing, I hope that one day I will get to visit it and see all of the Broad-wing Hawks soar above me in the sky.
It’s nice to see how much you and Jeanne care about the environment on your farm, I don’t think the average farmer would go through the trouble of removing invasive native weeds in their fields. You are utilizing best management practices throughout your farm–I hope that other farms use yours as a an example.
Thank you, Elena, I hope to see you next year at the hawk watch station.
Professor Whitescarver, I live in a rural area of New Jersey, it too has breathtaking views but I sure can’t take pictures like the ones seen here. Your pictures and descriptions make me feel like I’m right there in the moment. I have the utmost respect for Jeanne and yourself for the work you put into your farm, it seems like pure dedication and passion for conservation. I hope to get out and see your farm sometime this semester before the winter storms hit. We will keep fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to ensure that our streams are not altered in anyway!
Erik, that is a very kind comment, thank you. And I will pass your kindness on the Jeanne. I hope you will come to the farm too!
I selected this post to make my comment for October 7th because I was immediately entranced by all the visual beauties provided! While your words provide enough imagery to imagine the wonders across your farm and in nature, I really enjoyed them being brought to life through the photographs on this post. The green colors are so vibrant and there is so much fascinating wildlife within the span of your property.
Your description of the thousands of hawks flying over head as they migrated that September sounds like such a spectacular experience, I definitely have to put that on my bucket list to witness. I have seen masses of small black swallows (I believe) clouding the sky like pepper, but never a flock of hawks in flight as you witnessed. I am taken aback enough by seeing one hawk in public alone, much less seeing an entire sky full of them. Thank you for this read to reaffirm my love for the natural wonders of the world!
Lauren, what a delightful post. Thank you for your kind words and for your love of nature. The black swallows you mention might have been Tree Swallows. They amass in great numbers to migrate south.