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January 17, 2016 [LINK / comment]

ABC field trip to Highland (& Bath!) County

Yesterday I joined Allen Larner and John Pancake on the Augusta Bird Club's semi-annual field trip to Highland County. The weather was chilly and breezy, with occasional sleet or drizzle, frequently shifting between overcast and partly sunny skies. Those rough conditions probably accounted for the absence of any hoped-for Golden Eagles, although we did come across many Ravens and Juncos in several locations, as well as a nice mixture of songbirds at various backyard feeders. Overall, however, it was a big disappointment.

So, late in the morning we gave up on Highland County and headed south to Bath County, where things immediately got busy. At some ponds along Route 220, we saw several Hooded Merganser and about 100 Ring-necked Ducks, along with several other species. Driving along Back Creek toward the reservoir, we finally saw some Bald Eagles. Approaching Lake Moomaw, we were startled by a Ruffed Grouse which flushed just a few feet away from the car. Once we arrived at the lake, we were even more surprised to see a Double-crested Cormorant, far from its normal wintering grounds along the Atlantic coast. Along the upstream portion of the lake we saw two groups of Common Mergansers, numbering eleven altogether. There were quite a few woodpeckers and songbirds in the trees and bushes in that area, most notably a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Fox Sparrow. All those sightings made the venture quite worthwhile.

On the way back to Staunton, we checked out the Swoope area, hoping (in vain) to find some Short-eared Owls. We did see a pair of Bald Eagles near Smith Pond, however, presumably the same ones which have raised young ones there in recent years.

The following list (not necessarily complete) includes 44 species altogether, four of which were heard only. Many thanks to Allen Larner for leading this trip!

  • Canada Goose
  • American Wigeon
  • American Black Duck
  • Mallard
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Horned Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Bald Eagle
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Pileated Woodpecker*
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Common Raven
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Carolina Wren*
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet*
  • Eastern Bluebird*
  • European Starling
  • Fox Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Northern Cardinal
  • House Finch
  • Pine Siskin
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow

* = Heard only.

Montage 16 Jan 2016

Clockwise from top left: Goldfinch, Red-tailed Hawk (J), White-breasted Nuthatch, Common Merganasers (M), Ring-necked Ducks (M & F), Pine Siskin, Bald Eagles (M & F), Double-crested Cormorant, Fox Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, and in center, Hooded Merganser (M).

Enlarged versions of most of the photos in the montage above can be seen on the Wild Birds, yearly photo gallery page.



My blog practices

My general practice is to make no more than one blog post per day on any one category. For this reason, some blog posts may address more than one specific issue, as indicated by separate headings. If something important happens during the day after I make a blog post, I may add an updated paragraph or section to it, using the word "UPDATE" and sometimes a horizontal rule to distinguish the new material from the original material. For each successive day, blog posts are listed on the central blog page (which brings together all topics) from top to bottom in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the order in which the posts were originally made:

  1. Wild birds (LAST)
  2. War
  3. Science & Technology *
  4. Politics
  5. Latin America
  6. Culture & Travel *
  7. Canaries ("Home birds")
  8. Baseball (FIRST)

* part of "Macintosh & Miscellanous" until Feb. 2007

The date of each blog post refers to when the bulk of it was written, in the Eastern Time Zone. For each blog post, the time and date of the original posting (or the last update or comment thereupon) is displayed on the individual archival blog post page that appears (just before the comments section) when you click the [LINK / comments] link next to the date. Non-trivial corrections and clarifications to original blog entries are indicated by the use of [brackets] and/or strikethroughs, as appropriate so as to accurately convey both the factual truth and my original representation of it. Nobody's perfect, but I strive for continual improvement. That is also why some of the nature photos that appear on the archive pages may differ from the (inferior) ones that were originally posted.

The current "home made" blog organization system that I created, featuring real permalinks, was instituted on November 1, 2004. Prior to that date, blog posts were handled inconsistently, and for that reason the pre-2005 archives pages are something of a mess. Furthermore, my blogging prior to June 1, 2004 was often sporadic in terms of frequency.