July 13, 2023
April 30, north Augusta County: Jacqueline and I took a long country drive, stopping along the Middle River and finally at Leonard's Pond. The expected Solitary Sandpiper and Spotted Sandpiper (far) were there (both FOY for me), as well as a Killdeer. The big highlight of the day, however, was an odd medium-sized, dull-plumaged bird perched on a wooden fence. For a while I thought it might be a very early juvenile Northern Mockingbird, but when I noticed the white outer tail feather, my initial impression was confirmed: American Pipit! He or she will be heading to the Arctic tundra soon.
* The above paragraph was mistakenly omitted from the monthly summary of April; see my July 3 blog post.
May 3, Bell's Lane: I paid a visit to on the way home from work today, going from north to south. By the "beaver pond," I had nice views of a Brown Thrasher and an Orchard Oriole (one of which I had seen briefly at the April 21 field trip), and then saw a Yellow Warbler fly past, my first one of the year! Later on I heard and soon saw a Great Crested Flycatcher (which we had heard on April 21) and a couple American Goldfinches. The Gray Catbirds are becoming more conspicuous and vociferous.
May 6, Cowbane Prairie: Lynne Parks led a wonderful field trip to the Cowbane Prairie nature preserve, with many participants (about two dozen) and many birds as well. The birds in the top row are the first ones I have seen this year: Common Yellowthroat, Warbling Vireo, and Baltimore Oriole. Likewise for the Eastern Kingbird at bottom right. There were so many Orchard Orioles that I felt obliged to include both a male and female, even though that meant excluding a Brown Thrasher, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Black Vulture. The Osprey was a nice bonus. Many thanks to Lynne for leading the trip.
May 10, JMU Arboretum: Jacqueline and I had some things to do in Harrisonburg today, so I spent a half hour or so at James Madison University's Edith Carrier Arboretum. Not surprisingly, the tree tops were filled with a variety of migrating birds. I saw my first Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Bay-breasted Warbler of the year, along with several Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Downy Woodpecker, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a Great Crested Flycatcher or two. I could hear Cerulean Warblers, and probably glimpsed some. Near the ground were Gray Catbirds and late-lingering White-throated Sparrows. A quick walk along the Mill Place trail in Verona on the way back yielded a Spotted Sandpiper (far) and a singing Orchard Oriole.
May 11, behind Staunton High School: I squeezed in about 30 minutes of time late this afternoon to do a bit of birding in our neighborhood. Behind Staunton High School I heard a Great Crested Flycatcher, but couldn't see it for sure. There were multiple families of Eastern Towhees anxiously defending their breeding grounds, as well as a Scarlet Tanager doing likewise. THAT was a nice surprise. Nearby I also saw a pair of Tufted Titmice at a nest hole and a mama Eastern Bluebird with a yummy worm for her babies.
May 12, Bell's Lane: Along this lovely morning, I saw TWO first-of-year birds: Indigo Bunting (finally) and White-eyed Vireo!! I would estimate there were at least three of each kind singing in various places. Other highlights included Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds, Eastern Towhees, a Common Yellowthroat (concealed in the bushes), an Orchard Oriole (first-year male), and a Red-bellied Woodpecker probing in some willow branches -- rather unusual behavior!
May 14, Shenandoah Mountain: The weather was much better today, and the forests were full of gorgeous warblers and other neotropical migrants! Jacqueline and I hiked about two miles south from the trailhead near Confederate Breastworks. I spotted four first-of-year birds (Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Canada Warbler, and Worm-eating Warbler), and also heard my first Yellow-billed Cuckoo of the year. Even Jacqueline (who is not really a bird enthusiast) was impressed by all the natural beauty up above.
May 18, north Staunton: When Jacqueline and I went hiking along the Shenandoah Mountain trail last Sunday, she expressed deep doubts about the need to drive so far just to go on a nature hike. I explained to her that uncommon birds require a special habitat, and indeed the birds we saw along that trail (such as Canada Warblers in the rhododendron bushes) vindicated my argument. Well, guess what showed up in our back yard today? A Canada Warbler!!! Not only that, but a Yellow Warbler and a Blackpoll Warbler -- the first of the latter that I have seen in years, I think. Possibly more than one of each species. Up above two Red-shouldered Hawks were circling with their menacing screams. I simply could not believe my eyes, and thanks to the migratory stroke of good luck today, Jacqueline cannot believe my rationales for hiking far from home. Oh well.
May 21, Bear Den Mountain, Shen. Nat. Park: Jacqueline and I hiked along the Appalachian Trail up to Bear Den Mountain, where all those communications towers are in the southern part of Shenandoah National Park. There were lots of other hikers! We heard and/or saw several of [each one of] the birds shown here: American Redstart (adult and first-year males), Ovenbirds, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, and Hooded Warblers. Others not shown included Indigo Buntings and Eastern Towhees, as well as Cerulean Warblers that eluded my camera aim. Perfect weather!
May 23, Bell's Lane: I made a brief visit to Bell's Lane for the first time in almost two weeks. I started at the northern ("beaver pond") end and was rewarded immediately with nice views of an Eastern Bluebird family. The youngsters were learning to hunt for bugs! Nearby was a pair of Cedar Waxwings, presumably a breeding pair. As I approached the gate of Carolyn Ford's farm I heard the familiar song of a House Wren, and it wasn't long before I had one in view. My first one of the year! Toward the southern end I heard and then saw a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers, and also heard an Orchard Oriole. Time well spent!
May 26, Montgomery Hall Park: After running errands in the afternoon, I stopped at the top of the hill in the park, and immediately heard a Red-eyed Vireo singing. He obliged me by posing at eye level for a photo op. Then I spotted a Northern Flicker (F) on a big tree, and managed to get in position for a good shot. I don't see them very often, but this was the second one in two days for me. I also saw an Indigo Bunting (M) and multiple Eastern Wood Pewees and Great-crested Flycatchers in the tree tops, as well as an elusive Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
May 28, Leonard's Pond: I was finally able to get up to Leonard's Pond, and was happy to see that the Red-necked Phalarope (female, as indicated by the sharply contrasting colors) was still there! (I was also happy to see another bird club member, Ramona Bearor!) Then I went for a short hike in the Madison Run area, where I saw some Eastern Wood Pewees, Acadian Flycatchers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, Scarlet Tanagers, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and (surprise!) a Belted Kingfisher.
May 31, Dowell's Draft: Jacqueline and I went for a hike in the trail located just east of Braley Pond, where I was hoping to see a Ruffed Grouse, but very few birds were present. We saw Ovenbirds, a Scarlet Tanager, a Black-throated Green Warbler, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.