May 14, 2005
The Augusta Bird Club (ABC) held its annual picnic this morning, but this year's gathering was a very special occasion. A nature trail at Montgomery Hall Park has been named in honor of my former neighbor YuLee Larner, a leading expert on birds and author of a weekly column in the Staunton News Leader. She is a founding member of ABC, past president of the Virginia Society of Ornithology, and editor of the first two editions of Birds of Augusta County. Several people spoke about all her lifetime accomplishments, including City Councilman David Metz, Becky Wajda of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and John Spahr, vice president of ABC. Mary Vermeulen introduced the speakers and read a poem by Henry van Dyke.
I "met" YuLee via e-mail as I was moving to Staunton three years ago, inquiring about good places to watch birds in this area. She was one of those who responded to me, and we soon discovered that we lived practically next door to each other. Serendipity! Whenever either of us saw an unusal bird outside, we would call each other right away. Probably the most memorable rare sighting in this neighborhood was the Western tanager that I spotted in late March 2004. She was very anxious about missing the opportunity to see this rare bird, which had never before been seen in this region, and when she finally saw it, she was tickled pink. YuLee was very helpful to me in developing my bird-watching skills, and her devotion to monitoring avian wildlife is truly inspiring. I am proud to know her.
Pictured at the top of the sign is a Prairie warbler.
Prior to the picnic brunch and ceremonies, club members divided into two groups to go looking for birds. At first it was chilly and windy, but soon the sun warmed everything up, and quite a number of birds started singing. Most of them remained hidden in the thick foliage, but after some patient stalking, we eventually got good views of some, including seven first-of-season birds for me. The best part of the day was seeing a Bay-breasted warbler (male) for the first time in four years. All of the colorful warblers looked truly gorgeous in the sun. Here are today's highlights:
In addition, I heard but did not see several Black-throated green warblers, Black-throated blue warblers, Blackpoll warblers, and Indigo buntings. I should mention that I forgot to include a Wild turkey on my list of birds seen on the trail on Thursday; that entry has been corrected.
And speaking of erroneous reporting, the Washington Post printed a correction of the caption about the Red-bellied woodpecker which I called to their attention. That bird is a resident species, not migratory.
BELOW: ABC members and invited guests as the ceremonies were about to begin. YuLee is seated on the left-center, and the sign (then draped) bearing her name is in the right-center.