June 29, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Shenandoah National Park birding

As bird breeding season gradually nears an end, each opportunity to see neotropical migrants becomes more and more precious. On June 22-23, Jacqueline and I went up to the Shenandoah National Park for some hiking and relaxation. We knew the weather was going to be iffy, but were startled by the fierce thunderstorm during the night. (That was when the devastating rains and floods struck West Virginia, no doubt part of the same weather system.) We saw several Chestnut-sided Warblers, as well as the other birds in the photo montage below. On our way back, we stopped at the High Top Mountain parking lot about one mile south of the Route 33 intersection with Skyline Drive, hoping to see a Kentucky Warbler that had been reported there. Sure enough, I soon spotted it, but just couldn't get a good photo of it. The winds started kicking up, and rain threatened again, so I decided to try again some other day.

Montage 23 Jun 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Chestnut-sided Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Wood Phoebe, American Redstart, Indigo Bunting, and Scarlet Tanager. All males except for the Phoebe, which is undetermined. (June 20-23, 2016)

On June 18, I hiked along Madison Run for the second time this year, and for the first time I hiked up the side trail toward Austin Mountain. The highlight of the day was a close encounter with a Pine Warbler, who responded fiercely not only to his own song being played, but also to the song of the Worm-eating Warbler, which I heard but did not see. Other birds of note included Louisian Waterthrushes, Ovenbirds, Blue-headed Vireos, Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and a possible Broad-winged Hawk.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler, June 18. More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.

While I was at Madison Run, some hikers pointed out to me what I believe was a Northern Water Snake. According to ces.ncsu.edu:

Nonvenomous; adult size 30 - 60 inches. Basic color varies from reddish-brown to pinkish-purple, with brown to black bands. This common NC snake prefers a wet environment, but during rainy weather may travel a long distance from water. Feed on frogs, toads, and fish. These aggressive snakes will vigorously defend themselves by biting and discharging a foul-smelling musk. ...

They're "aggressive"? Yikes.

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake, at Madison Run, June 18. Roll your mouse over the image to see a closeup.

Finally, on Monday I saw and photographed a Great Blue Heron on Kiddsville Rd., while looking for the Sandhill Cranes that apparently still lurking there. (I saw them there on June 2.) Later I stopped at Betsy Bell Hill, and got some nice photographs of a Scarlet Tanager and a Hairy Woodpecker, both males.

Bird photo update

For the first time in over a year, I have updated my Wild Birds species list page, showing the best photos I have taken for a large majority of species from this area, as well as species seen in other areas, indicated with a distinct color lettering.