July 16, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Great Egrets pay brief visit

A pair of Great Egrets visited Verona on Thursday, presumably juveniles which fledged in breeding grounds closer to the Atlantic coast. It was only by happenstance that I made this discovery, and otherwise the news might never have circulated in the local birding community. After "shopping" at the Antique Mall in Verona, I drove to the other side of the highway and took a look at the pond in back of the Hardees, at the entrance of the Mill Place industrial park. I hardly ever see any interesting birds there, and I was astonished when I saw a very tall white bird. Unfortunately, it had been raining, or else I would have brought my camera, so I had to hurry home and get my optical gear. When I returned, I saw that there were two Great Egrets, one of which was standing only about 30 yards from the road. CLICK! CLICK! CLICK! It later rejoined its companion on the other side of the pond, and I took some more photos. The breeding range of Great Egrets covers the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, extending upwards into the central Mississippi basin as far north as Illinois.

Great Egret

Great Egret, in Verona, July 14. Roll your mouse over the image to see a closeup of the head. More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

More encounters with nature

When I went back to Verona the next day, workers were cutting the grass around the pond, and the Great Egrets were already gone. So I took a leisurely drive through north-central Augusta County, looking for other wetlands and meadows in case something interesting should appear. Bird-wise, it was just "the usual suspects."

So then I headed farther west toward Jennings Gap, through which Route 250 passes, and then went for a short walk along the Chimney Hollow trail. I wasn't really expecting to see much in the way of birds, but mainly wanted to get some peace and quiet. Indeed, the forest was almost silent, in contrast to the countryside fields and meadows I passed on the way there. I heard a couple Acadian Flycatchers, and saw one, and I also heard some odd squeaks in the bushes and finally saw a family of Worm-eating Warblers. Other than that, just a couple of Ravens passing far overhead, the (muted) songs of some Red-eyed Vireos, and the loud call of a Pileated Woodpecker. With overcast skies, it was very dark, and there was a brief sprinkle of rain. But the abundance of colorful fungus in the moist soil more than made up for the lack of birds:

Mushroom montage July 2016

Among the mushrooms in the montage above are Clavulina cristata (top right) and Amanita abrupta (bottom left). Other species are yet uncertain... Once identified, the photos will be posted on the Mushrooms photo gallery page, which I just realized is extremely outdated.

While I was departing to attend the OneVirginia 2021 meeting on Tuesday evening, I saw an enormous moth on the hood of a neighbor's car, and ran back inside to get my camera. It was bigger than my fist, almost five inches across. I determined the species from butterfliesandmoths.org.

Imperial Moth

Imperial Moth, in Staunton, July 12. A top-view photo can be seen on the Butterflies photo gallery page, which also includes moths -- at least for the time being.