October 24, 2009 [LINK / comment]

The birds of October

As far as birding goes, all I've had time to do over the past month is some occasional brief forays, no extended field trips. The highlight this fall has been life bird #399: three Dunlins (a rather chunky species of sandpiper), at Leonard's Pond (north of Weyer's Cave) on October 16. (Conveniently, that sighting coincided with the Green Valley Book Fair!) Also seen there were a Green-winged teal (first of season), some Killdeers, and a graceful Common tern, which showed up just as I was about to leave.

Today was the annual Augusta Bird Club bird seed sale pickup day, in Verona, and on the way home I stopped along Bell's Lane, where I saw:

I also heard a Catbird in the bushes. I have also seen Phoebes and Brown thrashers there lately. Other sightings of note from earlier this month, mostly first-of-seasons:

The birds of late September

On September 21, I stopped at the Rockfish Gap, where Vic Laubach was standing (or sitting) vigil as part of the hawk watch. Nancy Davidson arrived just after I did, and we picked a good time. I was fortunate to spot an adult Peregrine Falcon passing along the east side of the Blue Ridge. I was pretty sure about the the identification, but Vic confirmed it. About 15 minutes later I spotted a dark raptor flying right past us at eve level. It turned out to be an immature Merlin, only the second I have ever seen. Later another adult Peregrine Falcon passed overhead, circled a couple times, and then resumed its southbound journey. Ironically, we didn't see any of the much more common falcon species, the Kestrel.

On September 24, I was driving home along the Blue Ridge Parkway (scenic route), but didn't see much of interest until I spotted a Chestnut-sided warbler at the Rockfish Valley overlook. Also seen that day were an Ovenbird and a Hummingbird.

On September 27, I walked along the trail behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad for the first time in several months. It was a pretty good day, with several neotropical migrants: