October 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Sandhill Cranes still lingering

On Wednesday afternoon, I drove over to Fishersville to see if the pair of Sandhill Cranes that was first seen in that area in early June was still there. I parked across from the pond where I took the photos back then, and scanned the surrounding fields for a few minutes. Then I spotted them, about 200 yards to the southeast, walking slowly toward the pond. I started snapping photos and couldn't believe my good luck when they approached to within 50 feet of where I was parked. The fact that they are still in the same location for such an extended period suggests that they may have taken up permanent residence. If so, that would be abnormal, because this species winters in Florida, Texas, and other southern states.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane, extreme closeup. Roll your mouse over the image to see it along with the other one foraging next to the pond. Also see the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

After seeing the Sandhill Cranes, I drove over to Bell's Lane to see if any newly arrived migrants were there. I was hoping in particular to get a better view of a Palm Warbler, one of which I photographed on the previous Saturday. (See below.) I didn't see any of those, but I did get some very good photos of a White-throated Sparrow and a Dark-eyed Junco, shown in this montage:

Montage 26 Oct 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker*, Northern Flicker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, and Dark-eyed Junco. (Bell's Lane, October 26. * In our back yard.)

Two days later I went back to Bell's Lane, and saw three different kinds of raptors -- most notably, a Bald Eagle. It might have been one of the same birds that Penny Warren saw there a few days earlier. Otherwise, not much was going on.

Montage 28 Oct 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: American Kestrel (female), Eastern Bluebird, American Kestrel (the same one), Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Red-tailed Hawk, Song Sparrow, and Bald Eagle. (Bell's Lane, October 28.)

Madison Run field trip

On Saturday October 22, I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Madison Run, a fire road providing access to the Shenandoah National Park east of the town of Grottoes. Unlike my previous field trip (to Chimney Hollow on October 18), this time four other members showed up! Skies were mostly clear, but it was chilly and quite windy. That no doubt is why we didn't see as many birds as expected: only 13 species total, one of which was heard only. The highlights of the day were Blue-headed Vireos, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and two groups of Dark-eyed Juncos -- the first of that species I had seen in the (relative) lowlands this fall. Here is the eBird report I submitted just yesterday:

Shenandoah NP--Madison Run Fire Road, Rockingham, Virginia, US
Oct 22, 2016 9:10 AM - 11:40 AM
Protocol: Traveling
3.5 mile(s)
Comments: Augusta Bird Club field trip
13 species

  1. Turkey Vulture -- 1
  2. Red-headed Woodpecker -- 2
  3. Downy Woodpecker -- 3
  4. Blue-headed Vireo -- 3
  5. Carolina Chickadee -- 6
  6. Tufted Titmouse -- 5
  7. White-breasted Nuthatch -- 3
  8. Golden-crowned Kinglet -- 5
  9. Ruby-crowned Kinglet -- 5
  10. Dark-eyed Junco -- 12
  11. White-throated Sparrow -- 2
  12. Eastern Towhee -- 1 (heard)
  13. Northern Cardinal -- 4
View this checklist online at ebird.org

While returning to Staunton from the field trip, Penny Warren and I saw a Palm Warbler next to the road very close by, but the lighting conditions were less than ideal.