September 19, 2012 [LINK / comment]

It's fall bird migration season!

Well, here it is the latter part of September, technically the very end of summer. For all intents and purposes, it has been autumn for nearly two weeks, and the steady stream of migrating birds leaves no doubt that the seasons are rapidly changing. I've been meaning to finish a blog post on various summer birding excursions, but I figured the more recent observations are more salient. I'll post a (belated) report of my birding adventures in South Dakota and Virginia tomorrow.

This morning I went to Bell's Lane, and after a slow start I had some good luck finding birds. There was a Great-crested Flycatcher and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak or two in the tree tops along the upstream portion near town, but none of the hummingbirds which I've seen there lately. Catbirds are still plentiful along that part of Bell's Lane, but they'll be leaving in a few weeks. Further east, at the sharp bend, I saw a Kestrel circling overhead, and two Red-tailed Hawks much higher up. As I approached the highland part of Bell's Lane, I saw two large spiders building webs among the wildflowers, and photographed them. Further north, I was pleased to spot at least six few Palm Warblers, alternating between the ground and nearby tree branches. They are early spring / late fall migrants, common in that area. An even better find was a couple Cape May Warblers in the Elm trees. One of them came close, and I photographed it. There was also a big surprise in the biggest Elm tree: a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, the earliest in the fall I have ever seen that species! According to Birds of Augusta County (2008), the earliest sighting (in the Valley) was September 15, 1977. Here is the full list:

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler, on Bell's Lane, September 19.

Shenandoah River State Park

Last Saturday, September 15, I joined seven other members of the Augusta Bird Club for a field trip to Shenandoah River State Park, which is alternately named in honor of Raymond "Andy" Guest, a former state legislator who passed away a few years ago. Penny Warren led the trip, and we found a pretty good number of migrating birds. Here is my list, which excludes birds others heard or saw:

On our way home, we drove along the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, and saw a few good birds at Big Meadows, including a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

On my way up to Harrisonburg on September 14, I saw two Bald Eagles flying over the Woodrow Wilson Parkway, on the north side of Staunton near Bell's Lane. One was an adult, and one was immature.

Other recent birding ventures

The rest of this blog post consists of terse descriptions of where and when I've seen birds this month, in (blog-style) reverse chronological order. My records are a little sketchy, so these lists are less than fully accurate. Most of these brief bird outings were either on the way to my teaching job at Central Virginia Community College, in Lynchburg, or on the way back.

September 11, Sweet Briar College

September 11, Blackwater Creek, Lynchburg

On Saturday, September 8, while I was crossing the Potomac River near the Pentagon on my way to a Washington Nationals game, I saw a Double-crested Cormorant.

September 6, Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch

September 6, Rockfish Valley Trail

September 6, Piney River

September 4 (?), Blackwater Creek, Lynchburg

In addition, we've had a few Hummingbirds, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Downy Woodpeckers in our back yard, but not much else.