A diary of birds I've observed, with occasional commentary on wildlife conservation issues, spiced up with photos of varying quality.
April 30, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Migration season reaches peak
I wasn't even planning to go out today (too exhausted from school work!), but when I saw the e-mail alert from Greg Moyer about a Golden-winged Warbler at Cook's Creek Arboretum in Bridgewater, I just couldn't resist. So I hit the road and drove north. I didn't see that species, unfortunately but there were plenty of other warblers to make the trip worthwhile; see list below. It was a truly spectacular "fallout" of neotropical migrants, perhaps aided (ironically) by the gloomy weather. Many thanks to Greg!
While at Cook's Creek, I had nice chats with two prominent local birders, Ken Hinkle and Ken Ranke.
- Cape May Warbler *
- Black-throated Green Warbler (FOS)
- Palm Warbler (FOS)
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Yellow Warbler
- Blue-headed Vireo
- RC Kinglet
- Spotted Sandpiper (FOS)
- American Goldfinches
- White-crowned Sparrows
- Plus many Robins, Grackles, etc.
* I saw my first Cape May Warbler of the year (from a distance) at Betsy Bell Hill on Tuesday. Later that day I saw my first Grasshopper Sparrow of the year on Bell's Lane.
Cape May Warbler (male), at Cook's Creek Arboretum, in Bridgewater today.
Last Sunday afternoon, I heard a familiar high-pitched song in the back yard, and sure enough I soon spotted a Yellow-rumped Warbler in the bushes. Then I saw a small yellowish bird taking quick baths in a stream, and managed to get closeup photos of a Yellow-throated Vireo. Finally, I saw what I thought was a female House Finch, but the photos I took proved that it was a Pine Siskin. Not bad day!
Oddly, I had rarely seen Yellow-throated Vireos, much less gotten good photographs of one, until about a year ago, when I saw one at Sweet Briar College and later at Natural Chimneys. They seem to be more common than they used to be.
Yellow-throated Vireo, in Staunton, April 24.
Other photos from today and recently can be seen at: Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
April 23, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Field trip to Augusta Springs
Ed and Nancy Lawler led a very successful (though underattended) Augusta Bird Club field trip to Augusta Springs today, accompanied by just Jo King and me. Nancy heard a Louisiana Waterthrush as soon as we got out of the car, and we found it shortly thereafter, along with several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Those were only two of the seven (7) first-of-year bird sightings for me; here is the complete FOY list:
- Louisiana Waterthrush
- Blue-gray Gnatcatchers
- Eastern Kingbird
- Yellow-throated Vireo
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Worm-eating Warbler
Other notable sightings included several Bluebirds, Towhees, Goldfinches, a Raven, a Downy Woodpecker, and most of the other usual birds. I also spotted a Swamp Sparrow, I believe the first one I had seen since the winter of 2014-2015. (They head north in the summer.) I also heard but did not see a Red-eyed Vireo, a Blue-headed Vireo, a Pine Warbler, and an Eastern Phoebe. We had to hurry back to the car as it started to rain at 11:00, just when the forecast had said it would. On the way back to Staunton we stopped to see the Bald Eagle nest in Swoope, and saw two big juveniles in it, and one adult in a nearby tree.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Louisiana Waterthrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird (M), Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Ovenbird. (April 23, 2016)
Other bird sightings
At Sweet Briar College yesterday I saw my first Yellow Warbler of the year, and saw my first Chimney Swifts of the year the week before that.
On Tuesday I hiked around Montgomery Hall Park after unloading stuff at the recycling center, but didn't see any new spring arrivals. Likewise on Bell's Lane later in the afternoon, it was relatively uneventful.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: White-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird (F), Brown-headed Cowbird (M). (April 19, 2016)
The above montages, as well as individual photos of most of the birds shown therein, can bee seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
April 5, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Spring brings winged things
The weather turned chilly today, but it was still sunny and therefore a good opportunity for me to get a bit of exercise and check out the birds at Bell's Lane. On my way there, I spotted a pair of Flickers excavating a nest hole along a street corner in Staunton. Perfect photo op! Except for the Bald Eagle (which we saw on Sunday), the rest of the birds in this montage were seen today:
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Bald Eagle, in Swoope (April 3), Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Blue-winged Teal (F), American Goldfinch (M), and Northern Flickers (M & F).
I also saw a pair of Brown Thrashers and a few Northern Shovelers, plus a few unidentified ducks, perhaps Gadwalls.
Eagle nest web cam
Speaking of Bald Eagles, Jacqueline has been fascinated by the web cam of the Bald Eagle nest located in the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. You can see it for yourself at eagles.org. Two baby eaglets hatched about a week to ten days ago, and both are growing rapidly. The parents have been named "Mr. President" and "First Lady."
A few weeks ago, I agreed to serve as the newsletter editor for the Augusta Bird Club, a responsibility that meshes fairly well with my existing responsibilities as Web master, but which will no doubt occupy much precious time. I distributed electronic versions last week, and mailed out the hard copies on Saturday. The latest edition of the newsletter can be seen at augustabirdclub.org.
March 26, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Field trip to Chimney Hollow
This morning I "led" an Augusta Bird Club field trip to one of my favorite places, Chimney Hollow. Other than the fact that I showed up a half hour late, by which time everybody else had already left (!), it was a great success. I heard a Pine Warbler as soon as stepped out of my car, and eventually saw many of them. Likewise for Blue-headed Vireos, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. I also had a great views of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and some Brown Creepers. All of those birds are pictured in the montage below. Also notable: a Cooper's Hawk chasing a Pileated Woodpecker! (Until I saw that I was wondering why it had been making such a racket.) I heard some Wild Turkeys gobbling, but didn't see any. I didn't see the hoped-for Northern Waterthrush, Winter Wren, or Hermit Thrush, but I think I heard the latter. Otherwise, most of the usual woodland birds. (The full list submitted to eBirds is shown below.) Being alone, I decided to hike much farther than usual, and in fact I saw most of the birds along a "saddle" ridge from whence the Chimney Hollow stream begins. I ended up climbing a few hundred feet altogether, up to where there are nice views of the mountains to the west. Next time I will make sure my alarm clock is properly set.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Pine Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blue-headed Vireo, Brown Creeper (rotated to fit), and Red-breasted Nuthatch.
Frankly, I was stunned that I was able to get such a nice closeup shot of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. (The red throat indicates that it's a male.) Larger-sized images of the above birds can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page, along with photos of a Pied-billed Grebe which I took at Sweet Briar College on Monday, the Bald Eagle nest in Swoope which I took on March 11, and a few others.
eBird report (LINK):
Location: Chimney Hollow Trail, Augusta County, Virginia, US ( Map )
Date and Effort: Sat Mar 26, 2016 8:30 AM
Party Size: 1
Duration: 4 hour(s), 30 minute(s)
Distance: 3.0 mile(s)
Observers: Andrew Clem
Species: 20 species total
- 1 Wild Turkey (heard only)
- 2 Turkey Vulture
- 1 Cooper's Hawk
- 1 Mourning Dove (heard only)
- 1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
- 4 Downy Woodpecker
- 2 Hairy Woodpecker
- 1 Northern Flicker (heard only)
- 2 Pileated Woodpecker
- 10 Blue-headed Vireo
- 1 Blue Jay
- 15 Black-capped Chickadee
- 6 Red-breasted Nuthatch
- 5 White-breasted Nuthatch
- 4 Brown Creeper
- 8 Golden-crowned Kinglet
- 1 Hermit Thrush (heard only; probable)
- 2 American Robin
- 12 Pine Warbler
- 3 Common Grackle (heard only)
March 18, 2016 [LINK / comment]
Some pretty bird photos
I've been pretty busy during this first week after spring break, but I did get outside for a while yesterday, walking around the boat pond at Sweet Briar College. For a while, all I could see was a couple Canada Geese and some Turkey Vultures, and then I heard a splash and spotted a Pied-billed Grebe about 50 yards away. Photo op! At that range, however, the image quality was only average.
Then this morning, as I was driving through the wooded area on the way into the Sweet Briar campus, I saw a bird fly up from the ground to the side of a tree, and quickly identified it as a Red-headed Woodpecker: beautiful! They are common in rural South Dakota, but I only see them on rare occasions in Virginia.
As spring approaches, I thought it would be nice to put on display this montage of wild bird photos that I have taken over the past couple years. I shared it on Facebook a couple weeks ago.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT:
Burrowing Owl (Las Vegas NWR, NM, July 2, 2014 -- reverse image);
Red-breasted Merganser (Lake Shenandoah, February 24, 2014);
Yellow-breasted Chat (Patagonia, AZ, June 30, 2014);
Purple Gallinule (Waynesboro, May 29, 2014);
Summer Tanager (San Pedro River, AZ, June 28, 2014);
Gray Hawk (Nogales, AZ, June 28, 2014);
Virginia Rail (Bell's Lane, February 20, 2016); and
CENTER: Magnolia Warbler (Montgomery Hall Park, May 7, 2014)
Speaking of wild bird photos, I entered an annual contest sponsored by Virginia Wildlife magazine, and the above Virginia Rail photo was one of the three which I submitted.
To see previous blog entries, go to the Wild Birds archives page.