Scouting Tour of North River Birding and Wildlife Trail


Headwaters Chapter is adopting the 10-site North River loop of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Birding and Wildlife Trail (BWT) in response to VDGIF’s request for adopters. This involves four visits a year to each site to check on signs, VDGIF official businessparking, as well as noting and reporting bird species using eBird, and any other naturalist sightings with the iNaturalist app, easily loaded onto smart phones, or home computer, including photos for positive ID. VDGIF BWT coordinator Jessica Ruthenberg has indicated that we can be very flexible about which trails or areas we observe and hike. That can change seasonally, and with the interest of the monitor or team. We hope to bring new HMN students into this project. We used the provided vehicle signs “Virginia Master Naturalist On Official Business for VDGIF.”

The main requirement for adoption is filling out the monitoring forms and returning them to Jessica Ruthenberg quarterly. For sites that are privately owned, there is also the request to contact the owners and reaffirm the relationship. This is not an issue with the North River Birding & Wildlife Trail, as most (and maybe all – we’re checking!) sites are on federal or state public lands.

On May 15th, 2016, Peggy Plass, Betty Forrest and Sandy Greene drove the route on a cold and windy day, passing through snow flurries several times over the day. We filled out the forms as a baseline. We note that all these sites are listed as “hotspots” on eBird, and all have had data input this spring from a variety of individual birders. We also found that there is no cellphone connectivity from Verizon in several remote and high altitude sites.  Don’t forget, no gas stations along this route, and few restrooms.


Click above for a Google map of the North River sites with information about each.

MNR01 Silver Lake in Dayton.  We straightened the BWT sign there and wired it back to the post. There is already an eBird link: VA Dayton 2271, stocked trout waters, family and several other anglers present. Directional signs ok. Good to observe from the far north end where some natural vegetation is present.  Adopter: Peggy Plass

MNR02 Paul State Forest.  We parked in the gravel pullout of Paul State Forest, which has a large sign, but no BWTrail or number sign. Need to add parking to amenities. Directional sign from 257. Gate is open to hiking trail. This is a fee area; carry your DGIF permit or fishing license or other ID. BWT sign could be affixed to the large Paul State Forest sign.  Adopters: Betty and Bob Forrest

MNR03 Switzer Lake is an outlier to the loop, at least driving. Directions are accurate, and there is a directional sign on 33.  Did not see BWT or number sign at the site. Need to watch for traffic on the entry to the lake, which is a steep and narrow rutted road, with blind turns and lots of recreational traffic. Great for observation on the way in, or alongside the lake. Potential adopters: Carl Droms and Adrie Voors

MNR04 Hone Quarry.  Has directional signage, but no BWT or number sign at the campground area. Just driving through allows for good observation on either side of the road, although the meadow behind the CCC picnic shelter and trail along the creek are mentioned in the description, and the dam lake has great viewing.  Adopter: Sandy Greene

MNR05 Briery Branch Lake.  No signs on site, but driving directions ok. SST toilet (sweet smelling toilet), big black racer snake outside it. Potential temporary adopter: Sandy Greene

MNR06 Flagpole Knob.  Directions unclear, no signs noted, no internet access, very rough road used by 4-wheelers and jeep club.  We only went to the edge of the ridge from where the road turns right, just opposite of the left turn to go up to Reddish Knob.   Potential adopter: Jerry Hopkins

MNR07 Reddish Knob.  We didn’t drive all the way to the top today, and didn’t see any directional signs for the BWT. Saw pink ladyslippers on the way up to the split in the road.  Potential adopter: Jerry Hopkins

MNR08 Hearthstone Lake.  Access road “Little River” from Tilghman Road was rutted and not accessible. No BWT signs visible.  Potential adopter: Chip Brown

MNR09 Todd Lake.  No BWT signs visible. Fee area. Nice bathrooms, camping, picnicking, parking area.  Potential Adopter: Chip Brown

MNR10 Natural Chimneys Park.  No signs on site, directional signs from both directions though. HMN Pollinator Garden there looks great. No day fee.  Potential adopters:  Kelly Rourke, as park manager; Sophia Cliffe

You can see the stops on the loop from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ website HERE.

Notes to DGIF:  We will be glad to put up the site signs if you send them. Most places have a logical other signpost to attach it to. Next monitoring should be mid July. We thought that suggesting a week mid month with weekend on either side would be a good monitoring target – in July, October, January and April. Sandy will send a prompt out to monitors on the first of each monitoring month, and will ask for any change in baseline data. She will also send vehicle signs and monitoring forms to monitors, and she and Peggy are happy to meet with anyone to practice eBird and iNaturalist data entry. Both apps are very user friendly. We hope to continue this data search and entry education as Continuing Education for all HMN’s.

We would love to recruit more monitors, and create teams, including the bird club members who are already feeding eBird data from all these sites.

Notes by Sandy Greene  540-487-1224


Click on the power point image at left for the March VMN webinar with everything you need to know to participate in the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail adoption project. Be patient, the webinar may be slow to load up. You can also find it through the VMN Continuing Education Resources page here.