February 20, 2016
Thanks to an e-mail alert sent out by Gabriel Mapel, who went birding with Allen Larner yesterday, I managed to see and photograph my first-ever Virginia Rail on Bell's Lane this afternoon. I was looking all along the wetland stream that parallels the road, not having any luck until a lady passed by in a car and told me where it was. So, I went over to another stream just past the sharp corner and after 15 or 20 minutes of waiting, the bird popped into view. I was amazed and delighted by the stunning appearance of the Virginia Rail, and count myself as lucky that there were ideal sunlight conditions for taking photos. It was my first life bird of the year, and my 462nd overall, so of course I had to update my Life Bird List page.
Virginia Rails nest in the northern states and Canada, and they winter in the southeast, so they aren't seen in Virginia very often, mostly during migration season. Perhaps the relatively mild winter (until this month at least) accounted for this bird's appearance here in the Shenandoah Valley.
On Thursday, I went looking for some Ross's Geese that were reported by Allen Larner and Penny Warren just east of Staunton (on Route 254), and sure enough I quickly saw four of them in a field. In one of my photographs, it seemed that one was bigger than the others, which might indicate a Snow Goose rather than a Ross's Goose.
The above photos have been posted on the Wild Birds yearly page, along with a few others.