A diary of birds I've observed, with occasional commentary on wildlife conservation issues, spiced up with photos of varying quality.
August 23, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Birding along the Chesapeake Bay
As noted in a separate travel-oriented blog post, one of the reasons for the day trip which Jacqueline and I took to the Chesapeake Bay on Saturday was to look for birds that frequent marshy areas along the coast. In particular, I was hoping to be there for the release of a Bald Eagle that had been rehabilitated by the Wildlife Center of Virginia, located south of Waynesboro. The release took place as scheduled at Belle Isle State Park in Lancaster County (see wildlifecenter.org), but between traffic delays (near Richmond) and various "touristy" diversions, we just couldn't get there on time. I was sad to miss the opportunity to witness that, but we had a nice consolation prize. While approaching one Dameron Marsh, one of the natural havens along the Chesapeake Bay, we encountered a Bald Eagle in a tree right in front of us! I was spellbound, and quite happy to get such a nice, well-lit photo.
Among the other birding "highlights" that day, one was rather frustrating: I saw numerous Greater Black-backed Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants perched along the Robert O. Norris Bridge, which crosses the Rappahannock River. It would have been an excellent photo op, but there was no place to park on the bridge. At the first of the two nature preserves we visited, Hughlet Point, I heard a distinct chipping call in the trees, like an Indigo Bunting. Then I saw something moving and got a clear view of a male Blue Grosbeak, the first one I've seen this year. From the observation deck, I saw several Ospreys, gulls, and what I thought were small sandpipers. My field guide says there are no sandpipers that breed along the mid-Atlantic coast, however, so I'm guessing they were either Wilson's Plovers or Piping Plovers. I'll have to check to see which one is more likely. At Dameron Marsh I saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird just a few feet away, as well as a probable Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Unfortunately, I didn't see any of the specialized coastal herons (Tricolored Herons or Little Blue Herons) I had hoped for, so I'll have to devote more time and preparation to find those birds the next time I'm in that region.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Osprey, Laughing Gull, Bald Eagle, American Goldfinch, Double-crested Cormorants and possible Royal Terns, and in the center, Great Blue Herons and a Killdeer. Roll your mouse over the image to see an enlarged view of the Bald Eagle.
More photos can be found on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page. Here is a list of the more signficant birds I saw that day, in approximate chronological order:
- Great Blue Herons
- Double-crested Cormorants
- Herring and/or Ring-billed Gulls
- Greater Black-backed Gulls
- Laughing Gulls
- Blue Grosbeak
- Wilson's Plovers ?
- Royal Terns ?
- Bald Eagle
- Yellow-billed Cuckoo
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- American Goldfinch
August 19, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Mississippi Kite in Staunton
Sometimes I drive for 30 miles or more in search of some rare bird that somebody spotted, and sometimes (such as when I saw a Western Tanager in March 2004), a rare bird pays a visit right here in our back yard. While I was reading the newspaper this morning, Jacqueline was watering our plants outside and asked me for the binoculars. She said she saw some strange-looking big bird in the tree tops, so I figured I ought to take a look. Indeed, it was not a hawk but a different kind of raptor. The whitish head and mascara-like dark-shadowed eyes left little doubt that it was a Mississippi Kite! It flew away briefly, but fortunately then returned to a tree top branch, enabling me to get a better look. The morning light was perfect for a photo:
Mississippi Kite (juvenile), in the north part of Staunton, August 19.
The mottled rufous feathers in the breast indicate that it was not an adult. I thought perhaps it might be a second-year ("subadult") bird, but others who have seen the photo say that it is a juvenile. The last time I saw a Mississippi Kite was two years ago, on July 3, 2014 in Salina, Kansas. I was with my Dad at St. John's Military School, of which he was an alumnus. Actually, there were two such birds: a male circling above, and a female brooding in her nest up in a big tree. I also saw one near Dodge City the day before. [Mississippi Kites are most prevalent in the south-central plains, and their breeding range extends east from Texas across the lower Mississippi Delta through Georgia and South Carolina, with scattered populations elsewhere. After breeding season ends, the juveniles tend to disperse into interior regions, much like Great Egrets and White Ibises.]
Other bird news
Yesterday, Jacqueline and I drove up to Bridgewater, but I couldn't find the White Ibis which I had seen last week, and which was reported to be lingering in that area for a few more days. I did see an immature Bald Eagle fly directly overhead, however. At Leonard's Pond there were a dozen or so Killdeers plus a solitary Solitary Sandpiper.
On August 14, Jacqueline and I went hiking in the Shenandoah National Park, along the Appalachian Trail from Blackrock Gap to Blackrock, which is a pile of boulders with some great views toward the north and west. There weren't many birds that (very hot) day, but we did see a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, and a couple Eastern Towhee. (See the montage on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page. I'll make a separate blog post with photos of mushrooms and scenery.) Around Blackrock, our destination, there were quite a few Barn Swallows swooping around.
August 10, 2016 [LINK / comment]
White Ibis in Bridgewater
There have been reports of a White Ibis in Bridgewater's Wildwood Park in recent days, so I drove up there this morning to take a look. It wasn't there, but I did at least see several good birds, such as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a Northern Flicker. There were also many Robins on the ground, including juveniles, plus a Pileated Woodpecker, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and the usual woodland birds. On the downstream side of the dam, I saw a Great Blue Heron and a Spotted Sandpiper, plus many Mallards, a few immature Wood Ducks, and an ugly Muscovy Duck. After that, I drove to the park adjacent to the bridge over the North River. Lo and behold, there was the White Ibis! It's a juvenile, of course. (Adults are all white.) Like the Great Egrets and similar species, White Ibises breed along the east coast, and in the late summer the juveniles disperse into the interior regions in search of food. The last time I saw one was August 2014; there were two, actually.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Flicker, White Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Spotted Sandpiper, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, in Bridgewater, August 10, 2016.
On the way home I stopped briefly at the part of Bell's Lane where the Green Herons have been seen, but none were there today. I did see a Great Blue Heron there, however. I also saw the usual Goldfinches, Indigo Buntings, and a House Finch; I took a nice photo of the latter. To see it and/or larger-size images of the birds in the above montage, go to:
Wild Birds yearly.
August 6, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Late summer birding doldrums
This time of year the neotropical migrant songbirds are all molting or just conserving energy in preparation for their big southbound journey next month, so it's unusual to see many of them. Obviously, I didn't have high hopes, but I just had to get away from the stifling heat and humidity today, so I drove west on Route 250 all the way to the Highland County line. On the way there, I stopped at Ramsey's Draft, where I saw a Hummingbird and heard some Cedar Waxwings and a Wood Thrush, but not much else. Once I reached the parking lot at the Confederate Breastworks at the summit, I decided to hike north on the Shenandoah Mountain trail, about a half mile or so. I heard an Eastern Wood Pewee, some Red-eyed Vireos, and saw some Black-capped Chickadees, Goldfinches, Turkey Vultures, and finally a family of Indigo Buntings. Satisfied with getting this photo, I decided to turn back and call it a day. I did get some nice mushroom photos along the trail, to be posted later.
Indigo Bunting (male), on Shenandoah Mountain, August 6, 2016.
Meanwhile, there have been continued reports of the two Sandhill Cranes north of Fishersville, as well as a Snowy Egret, and I have gone out there two or three times in the last week, just in case. No luck with either of those, but I did get some nice closeup photos of a Great Blue Heron, possibly a juvenile.
Great "Blue" Heron, on Kiddsville Rd., July 31, 2016.
Finally, I have been keeping tabs on the Green Heron family in the flooded ravine on the north end of Bell's Lane, and the young ones have already lost their "fuzz." Thus far, I have had a hard time getting good photos, however. See the Wild Birds yearly page.
July 26, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Colorful birds in the mountains
After searching in vain for the Sandhill Cranes that have been reported north of Fishersville this afternoon, I kept going east through Waynesboro and then decided to pay a brief visit to the nearby Shenandoah National Park. (Gotta get my money's worth for that annual pass!) It was very cloudy, not well-suited for photography, and started to rain as I was leaving. Within a mile of the entry station I saw a Black Bear in the bushes along the road, my first one of the year! At Jarman's Gap I saw an American Redstart or two, plus some Chickadees, a Titmouse, and a White-breasted Nuthatch. I also heard a Cuckoo -- sounding like a Black-billed, but probably a Yellow-billed. I got as far north as the Moorman's River Overlook and caught a glimpse of a hawk (probably Broad-winged) before turning back. I saw families of Red-eyed Vireos and Indigo Buntings at nearby Wildcat Ridge, and another family of Indigo Buntings at McCormick's Gap Overlook. I also saw a Baltimore Oriole there, either female or juvenile. On my way out I saw a bear crossing the road, but it got away before I could take a photo. It appeared to be a yearling, probably the same one as before.
Goldfinch (foreground), Indigo Bunting (background), at Moorman's River Overlook, SNP. Roll your mouse over this image to see one bird in focus, roll away to see the other one in focus, and click on it to see both in focus again -- thanks to some digital trickery!
You can see more of today's photos on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
To see previous blog entries, go to the Wild Birds archives page.