April 24, 2007 [LINK / comment]

First spring warblers arrive

It was cloudy but warm this morning, and my venture to the path behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad paid off very handsomely, as I spotted five migratory birds for the first time this spring, including three new warblers. Near the end of my walk, I briefly saw a medium-large raptor with a distinct white rump, so I assume it was a juvenile Harrier. We expect to see hummingbirds any day now, so I put up the nectar feeder for them on our back porch.

Hawk handling 101

I helped out with the raptor rehabiliation project at the Wildlife Center of Virginia this afternoon, and got to handle a hawk for the first time. It was a Red-tailed hawk that is recovering from a broken leg, and she or he did a very good job of flying, and behaved very well after some initial nervousness. There is a very specific technique for grabbing them safely, for attaching the "creancing" line to their legs, and for releasing them for each practice flight. Fortunately, I managed the task without any major goofs the first time, but getting it just right on a routine basis will take some practice. Another member of the Augusta Bird Club was helping as well: Jim Reed.

Madison Run

I had to run an errand in Harrisonburg on Friday, and I figured I might as well take a detour on the way home to check out the Madison Run trail at the edge of the Shenandoah National Park. Ron Moyers and others have spotted quite a few birds there in the past. It was pretty quite when I was there, but at least I spotted two first-of-season birds:

Augusta Springs

Jacqueline and I had a nice picnic at the Augusta Springs wetland area on Sunday, but our appetite was spoiled somewhat by witnessing a Black rat snake attacking a Mallard nest and devouring one of the ducklings. The mother tried valiantly to fight off the intruder, in vain, and then led the other eight tiny ducklings away, on what may have been their very first swim in the pond. We also saw:

Finally, I have recently seen Brown thrashers at two places inside the Staunton city limits: near Mary Baldwin College and on Bell's Lane.