January 16, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Jacqueline and I drove up to Bridgewater yesterday, and we stopped at the North River to see if any of the interesting waterfowl reported there recently were present. There were just the usual Mallards, plus some Coots and Pied-bill Grebes the first time we stopped there, but as we were crossing the bridge on the way back home, I caught a glimpse of a Northern Pintail and yelled "STOP!" I got out of the car, walked back over to the bridge, which has sidewalks for pedestrians. I managed to get close enough to get some very nice photos, which made my day. At Silver Lake in nearby Dayton, there were a dozen or more Gadwalls, some Redheads, a Canvasback, a Mute Swan, and all the usual Mallards and Canada Geese.
Northern Pintails are elegant birds that are more abundant in western states. They are "dabbling ducks," like Mallards, and are related to Gadwalls. When I took that photo, I didn't realize that it was in breeding plumage, an added bonus. Their non-breeding plumage is rather dull, as is the case with many other birds.
The above photo and others can be seen on the Wild birds yearly photo gallery page. I thought the Pintail might have been a life bird for me, since I knew I hadn't seen that species in years. In fact, the last two times were January 2009 and February 2007, on the (private) farm pond on Bell's Lane in both cases.
Jacqueline and I celebrated New Year's Day by taking a drive through the countryside, passing through Waynesboro along the way. The highlight of the day was at the Eagles Nest Airport pond west of Waynesboro, where we saw a male Canvasback and a pair of Ruddy Ducks. Otherwise, not much going on.
On Christmas Day, Jacqueline and I went looking for a Cackling Goose that had been reported on Heston's Pond south of Waynesboro, to no avail. But we did see a few Hooded Mergansers on the Invista (formerly DuPont) pond in Waynesboro. There wasn't much activity in the Bell's Lane area in December, but that may reflect my busy exam schedule and being "under the weather" for about a week. I saw a Northern Harrier on Bell's Lane on December 8 and 21, but none since then. On December 5 I went to Lake Shenandoah, and saw a pair of Common Loons, as well as some Coots and a Kestrel. The previous day I went to the water treatment pond in Stuarts Draft, and some several Ruddy Ducks, a Coot, and a Kestrel. On December 1 I drove out to Swoope in hopes of seeing unusual sparrows, but failed in that endeavor. I did see an adult Bald Eagle, however, as well as some Kestrels. And finally, on November 25, the day after my last blog post about birds, I saw several Kinglets of both species, and got a nice photo of Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
At the end of my November 24 blog post, I noted that I had already tied my second-best year in terms of seeing new birds: 1997, when I saw 47 (including one in Peru). I was hoping to do one better, but as noted above I was too busy (or sick) in December to do much birding. Just today I went over my records again, and discovered that I had actually seen 48 new species last year (including a probable Hooded Oriole in Arizona), so I have revised my Life bird list to show that 2014 was indeed my second-best (birding) year ever! [Obviously, my big trip to the desert southwest last June accounted for the vast majority of those species. I saw three life birds in the early winter months, a nice side-effect of the "polar vortex," and three life birds in the Virginia Beach area in November.] My current lifetime total now stands at 456 bird species.