June 7, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Return to Highland County

I joined an Augusta Bird Club field trip led by Dr. John Spahr to Highland County today, and even though the results weren't quite as spectacular as on the same trip one year ago, I did see several very special birds. The weather was nearly perfect, with clear skies and slowly warming temperatures. The camaraderie among bird enthusiasts was high, in what will probably be the club's last field trip until fall migration season. I met some birders from other parts of Virginia, one of whom I had known through the shenval-birds e-mail list. We followed almost the same itinerary as last year, beginning at Bear Mountain Lodge, then crossing into West Virginia, returning to the Straight Fork valley, going to the O'Bryans' home north of Blue Grass, and concluding just south of Hightown. This year our lunch break was at the retreat home of John and Nancy Spahr, very gracious hosts. For me the most outstanding sightings were a Vesper sparrow (which I had not seen since 2003) and a Mourning Warbler. We heard Veeries singing at at least three different places, and got a great look at one of them. The following list of highlights of what I saw, in rough chronological order, includes all the locations at which we stopped, lumped together.

Notable by their absence or shyness: both kinds of Orioles, Yellow Warblers, Both kinds of Black-throated Warblers (Blue and Green), Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-headed Vireos, Canada Warblers, American Redstarts, and Red-tailed hawks. Most of those we heard but did not see, and the same applies to the Golden-winged Warblers.. Missing that one was a disappointment, but it didn't detract from what was otherwise a very successful day. Many thanks to John Spahr for leading the trip.

Prairie state birding

Chestnut-collared Longspur

Chestnut-collared Longspur, at the Grand River National Grassland near Lemmon, South Dakota, courtesy of John Clem.