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A diary of birds I've observed, spiced up with photos and occasional commentary. Clockwise from top left: Burrowing Owl, Red-breasted Merganser, Yellow-breasted Chat, Purple Gallinule, Summer Tanager, Gray Hawk, Virginia Rail, and (in center) Magnolia Warbler.

Wild bird montage shadow
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Bird photos

Captions identifying the birds in these photo montages are found on the Wild Birds intro page.


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October 12, 2017 [LINK / comment]

Winter birds begin to arrive

After three weeks without any significant birding (the last time being in mid-September), last Saturday, October 7, I went along with an Augusta Bird Club field trip led by Allen Larner. We were hoping to see a combination of late-migrating neotropical species and early-arriving migrants from the northern latitudes, and we did very well.

Our first destination was the rolling pastures around the Swoope area of Augusta County, a few miles west of Staunton. But before we even left the Food Lion parking lot in Staunton, we saw a Pileated Woodpecker in a distant tree top! As we left town driving along the northern side of the Rt. 262 bypass, Allen noticed a group of big birds in a field, so we did a U-turn, and sure enough there were nine Wild Turkeys foraging in the dim light of dawn. I would never have noticed that, but Allen has amazing powers of visual perception. Then on Livick Road in Swoope, we saw several clusters with several species of sparrows (most notably Grasshopper and Savannah), plus Goldfinches, Meadowlarks, etc. A little further along, we saw two young Bald Eagles, and then even more raptors. Perhaps the highlight of the day was a group of seven Northern Harriers that were circling low around a field, as they typically do. All or most of them were juveniles.

Next we stopped at nearby Smith's Pond, a local hot spot for shorebirds. There we saw several several dozen Tree Swallows, about fifteen Killdeers, and several Wilson's Snipes, along with a single Rusty Blackbird along the shore. They were too far (150+ yards) for a good photo, however.

At the Augusta Springs wetland area, about six miles farther to the west, we were treated to a nice mixture of birds soon after we arrived. I had decent looks at a Blue-headed Vireo, a Tennessee Warbler, either a Palm or a Magnolia Warbler, and a probable Yellow-rumped Warbler, which I originally thought might be a Cape May Warbler or a Blackpoll Warbler. Those "confusing fall warblers" can be a pain! There were also a dozen or so Cedar Waxwings, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet or two. Farther along the boardwalk trail, we saw some Golden-crowned Kinglets. On the pond were a few Wood Ducks, and in the woods along the upland trail we saw a few woodpeckers, but no thrushes or any other warblers. That was a bit of a disappointment. We also saw our final raptor of the day, a Sharp-shinned Hawk overhead.

Altogether we tallied 64 distinct bird species, give or take a couple. There were so many birds that I had to make two separate photo montages (see below) to provide a suitable summary. The four of us enjoyed great weather and great company. I'll be leading a field trip this Saturday to Chimney Hollow, and I hope we'll be at least half as successful!

Montage 07 Oct 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Northern Harriers (juv.), Bald Eagle (juv.), Savannah Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Grasshopper Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and in center, Wood Duck (M) and Wilson's Snipe. (October 7)

Montage 07 Oct 2017 B

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Eastern Bluebird, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestreal, Cedar Waxwing, Great Blue Heron, Eastern Phoebe, and (prob.) Yellow-rumped Warbler. (October 7)


September 20, 2017 [LINK / comment]

Red-necked Phalaropes!

Thanks to Allen Larner (and others who relayed his initial sighting), I had great views of a pair of Red-necked Phalaropes in the pond across from the Target distribution center in Stuarts Draft last Thursday. That pond is right next to the road and provided great views of migrating shorebirds many times in the past. Since it is already past breeding season, the Phalaropes did not in fact have red necks. One of the Phalaropes (possibly an adult) had a darker crown than the other. A Red-tailed Hawk circled around briefly, frightening the Phalaropes.

Red-necked Phalarope

Red-necked Phalarope, in Stuarts Draft, September 14. Roll your mouse over the image to see both of them together.

The only previous time I had seen a Red-necked Phalarope was October 10, 2015; see my February 6, 2016 blog post. It was on Leonard's Pond, in Rockingham County, but it was quite a distance away, so the photo was very blurry.

Hillandale Park

The very next day (September 15), I made a trip up to Harrisonburg in hopes of seeing some of the many warblers and other neotropical migrants that have been reported in Hillandale Park, on the west edge of the city. As soon as I arrived, I saw two other birders, Walt Childs and Marshall Faintich, along with another guy, so we split up into two teams to scour the trees and shrubbery. Walt and I had fairly good luck, with closeup views of a White-eyed Vireo and a Canada Warbler. Most of the other birds were high up in the trees, and thus difficult to photograph. I didn't get any rare warblers, but it was a productive morning nonetheless.

Montage 15 Sep 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Black-and-white Warbler (F/J), Empidomax Flycatcher, Canada Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler (M), White-eyed Vireo, and in center American Redstart (F/J). (Hillandale Park in Harrisonburg, September 15)

Hawks, hawks, hawks!

That same afternoon (September 15), I went to the pond across from Target again, but the Red-necked Phalaropes were gone. I did get a good look (and photo) of a Red-tailed Hawk, however, perhaps the same one that had been there the day before. Since I was in the "neighborhood," I then went to the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch, where I had been for their annual open house on the previous weekend. I picked a good time to visit, as some folks from the Virginia Wildlife Center were there to release four Broad-winged Hawks which had been under their care for the past few months. That was wonderful to watch! Some of them were more hesitant than others, and one stayed around in a nearby tree for over 15 minutes before flying off into freedom. I glimpsed a distant Bald Eagle and saw hundreds of Broad-winged Hawks, as well as a few Sharp-shinned Hawks.

Hawks 15 Sep 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawks (group, perched in tree, in flight), Sharp-shinned Hawk. (Afton Mountain, September 15)

Butterfly photos!

At the Hawk Watch, they usually keep track of migrating Monarch butterflies that pass through, and I saw at least three while I was there. That prompted me to go back and compile some of the best butterfly photos that I have taken since I returned from Latin America in March. See my newly-updated Butterflies photo gallery page. Because I am accumulating so many of those, I will probably reorganize that page and probably create a new chronological Butterflies photo gallery page, as I have done for birds.

Monarch

Monarch butterfly, on Afton Mountain, September 15.


September 12, 2017 [LINK / comment]

Birding in South Dakota & Wisconsin: August 2017

"Only" a few weeks late, I now present an account of my pursuit of birds while in South Dakota early last month, followed by a brief but productive stop at a nature area in Wisconsin on my way home. As a preface, I should note that I saw a few interesting birds while in Kansas City, most notably a Common Nighthawk overhead while my brother Dan and I were in front of Arthur Bryant's famous barbecue place on July 30, but the situation was just not conducive to photography. We also saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (and a Monarch butterfly!) at the Shawnee Indian Mission earlier that day. The photo montages seen below, along with individual bird photos, can be see on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

Aug. 1: northeast S.D.

As recounted previously, on the first day of August I took my brother Chris's Hyundai Sonata on a test drive to the northeast part of South Dakota. I figured it was almost a sure bet to get a good photo of the American White Pelicans which breed up in the north where lakes abound, and I was right. I saw a few as I was driving toward my main destination, the Waubay National Wildlife Refuge, but it was harder than I thought to get close to them. Anyway, while driving west along U.S. Route 12 I spotted a hawk perched on a fence pole, did a U-turn and slowly approached it to get a photo. I was pretty lucky, because that bird didn't fly away until after I had taken a few excellent shots from only about 50 feet away. It was a Red-tailed Hawk -- a young one, based on the lack of reddish color in its tail. After lunch in Waubay I drove to the wildlife refuge northeast of town, and I soon spotted a Great Egret and a Snowy Egret in a shallow lake, as well as a Great Blue Heron and a Double-crested Cormorant. I got some good photos of the egrets, as well as of some Purple Martins. I also saw some (probable) Forster's Terns flying around and tried to take photos, but they weren't much good.

Once inside the refuge proper, I spent a lot of time pursuing grassland birds such as Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers, and Clay-colored Sparrows. (At the time, I thought the latter might be Lark Sparrows, but then I learned that the latter species ranges farther to the south.) I also spotted a Spotted Sandpiper by the shore. Next I drove across the causeway which leads to the island on which the refuge headquarters is located. There I heard and saw many Yellow Warblers and Chipping Sparrows. After chatting with the folks inside, I took a walk along one of the trails, and soon heard a scream up in the trees. It turned out to be a juvenile Cooper's Hawk, who was very cooperative as I took pictures! There were many Eastern Kingbirds, Barn Swallows, and Chipping Sparrows, but nothing really spectacular. I was hoping to see Western Grebes, which breed in that region, but no such luck.

Heading west, I saw a Black-crowned Night Heron in a mud flat adjacent to Route 12, and a Western Kingbird perched on a wire! (I didn't realize what it was until I looked at the image later on; they are hardly ever seen in southeastern South Dakota.) Following the suggestion of the refuge ranger I talked to, I stopped at a pond a few miles southwest of Webster. Indeed, it was full of shorebirds, such as Pectoral Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Solitary Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and Killdeers. There were also some Blue-winged Teals. Nearby I saw a few Dickcissels, and an American White Pelican flew right over my head! It was getting late in the afternoon, and I was three hours away from Sioux Falls, so I had to leave. On the way, I came across more lakes where many hundreds of shorebirds had gathered, but there weren't any good photo opportunities. While entering Watertown, I happened to see a dozen or so Pelicans clustered together around a boulder fairly close to the road, and I got some of my best pictures yet!

Montage 01 Aug 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: American White Pelican, Cooper's Hawk (J), Clay-colored Sparrow (J), Purple Martin (M), Dickcissel (F), Red-tailed Hawk (J), and in center, Least Sandpiper and Common Yellowthroat (M). Roll your mouse over the image to see the Pelican enlarged.

The next day (August 2) was mostly spent visiting with relatives in Madison, rather than birding. However, I did happen to photograph a Eurasian Collared Dove at the top of at building spire at Dakota State University. Other than that, it was just the usual ducks and gulls in some of the larger ponds.

Aug. 3: Atkins WPA

On Thursday, my last full day in South Dakota, I headed to Atkins Wildlife Protection Area, on the west edge of the town of Tea. It consists of marshes with tall cattails surrounding a small lake, but it is not well maintained, and the main trail becomes impassible half way through. My main target bird there was the Yellow-headed Blackbird, which I had seen only once before -- way back in 2004! It's a high priority for me every time I visit South Dakota, but unfortunately, I struck out once again. As a small consolation, I did get some photos of a Sedge Wren, but it took a lot of effort, since they usually stay deep in the tall grass / sedges. I also saw some Common Yellowthroats, and Red-winged Blackbirds, as well as a Western Meadowlark. To my eyes they are indistinguishable from Eastern Meadowlarks, but the songs are much different.

After that, I drove to Wall Lake, the southern-most of the large lakes that are scattered across northeastern South Dakota. The skies were getting dark, and while I walked across a footbridge I came upon a Green Heron in a low tree branch just 30 or so feet in front of me, and I got a quick photo before it flew away. There were several dozen or more Ring-billed Gulls and Franklin's Gulls around that lake, but not much else. It started to rain, so I left.

Montage 01 Aug 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: [ Sedge Wren, Ring-billed Gulls (A, J), American Goldfinch (M), Green Heron, Western Meadowlark, Common Yellowthroat (M) ]

Aug. 4: Wisconsin

I spent most of Friday driving straight across southern Minnesota, with only one significant stop -- in the town of Albert Lea. I crossed the Mississippi River into Wisconsin, and late in the afternoon I arrived at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, where a small colony of endangered Whooping Cranes has been breeding in recent decades. That would be a life bird for me, so I figured it was worth an hour or two. I stopped at an observation platform not far from the entrance, and spotted a young Bald Eagle, as well as probable Great Egrets. Upon arriving at the visitor center, I saw a steel silhouette of a pair of Cranes, making me all the more eager. Then I was thrilled to see a family of cranes across the lake, but I soon realized that they were just Sandhill Cranes, which are relatively common there. Still, it was the first time I had seen a small-sized juvenile of that species, along with its parents. In back of the visitor center there are several bird feeders, and I saw a wide variety of birds (including several Rose-breasted Grosbeaks) feeding there. I was amused to see a Blue Jay next to a sign that said "Blue Jay Way." I even saw a Red-headed Woodpecker, but couldn't get a recognizable photo. It was already dusk, so I had to leave.

Montage 04 Aug 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Rose-breasted Grosbeak (F), Bald Eagle (J), Sandhill Cranes (2 A, 1 J), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (M), White-breasted Nuthatch, and in center American Goldfinch (M). Roll your mouse over the image to see the Sandhill Cranes enlarged.

The next day while watching a baseball game in Chicago's Wrigley Field, I saw several Ring-billed Gulls on the roof in back of where I was sitting, so I took a photo. Those gulls congregate in large numbers around the outfield late in ballgames, anticipating feasting on the leftover snacks in the bleachers. Aside from brief visits to Indianapolis and Cincinnati, there wasn't much opportunity for me to do any birding for the rest of my trip back east, so that's that. Now all that is left to do as far as blogging about wild birds is to finish writing about my birding adventures in South Dakota two years ago! (Sigh...)


Sept. 12: Betsy Bell Hill

Today I went to Betsy Bell Hill here in Staunton for the first time since the early summer. I was hoping to see some of the neotropical migrants that are passing through, and my hopes were raised when I saw a Chestnut-sided Warbler soon after arriving. It left the area, however, and all during my hike to the top of the hill, there was very little bird activity. Thankfully, I encountered a cluster of small songbirds on the southwest side of the hill on the way down. In the following montage, only the Pileated Woodpecker is a year-round resident; the other birds will be on their way to parts farther south before long...

Montage 12 Sep 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Worm-eating Warbler (from below and a closeup of the head), Eastern Wood Pewee, Pileated Woodpecker (M), Red-eyed Vireo, and Scarlet Tanager (F/J).


September 11, 2017 [LINK / comment]

Blue Ridge Parkway field trip

On Saturday morning (September 9), I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the parallel Route 610, with 11 people participating altogether. We identified a total of 32 species, plus 2 others that were uncertain: a probable Cerulean Warbler, and either a Bay-breasted or a Blackpoll Warbler. At one of the Rockfish Valley overlooks near Afton, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and a Eastern Wood-Pewee were seen, and someone saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Most of the eight warbler species were seen at the communications tower on Route 610, which was very busy. Magnolia, Tennessee, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, and Black-throated Green Warblers were all prominent there. Linda Corwin spotted an unusual-looking bird at that location that turned out to be a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. There was also a yellow Scarlet Tanager: either a female or a juvenile male. In contrast, there wasn't much activity at either the Humpback Rocks visitor center or the nearby trail head, and likewise at the picnic grounds further south. Our final stop was at the Ravens Roost overlook, where we saw a possible young Red-tailed Hawk, a Blue-headed Vireo, a pair of Turkey Vultures, and a couple Dark-eyed Juncos. After that, we headed back north to join the big crowd gathered at the Rockfish Gap hawk watch open house. It was a productive, fun morning with great (although cool) weather.

View the checklist online at: ebird.org

Montage 09 Sep 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Blackburnian Warbler (F/J), Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler (F/J), Scarlet Tanager (F/J), Magnolia Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler (M), and in center, a probable Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Sept. 8: Bell's Lane

On Friday I went for a walk on Bell's Lane for the first time since July. I was curious about whether any migrating warblers, etc. were present, but the only really notable birds were one of those hard-to-identify "Empid" flycatchers and a young male hummingbird. I finally got a good photo of a Gray Catbird exposing the orange feathers under his tail.

Montage 08 Sep 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Gray Catbird, Empidomax Flycatcher (prob.), Downy Woodpecker, Brown Thrasher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird (JM).

NOTE: Both of the photo montages seen above, along with individual bird photos, can be see on the Wild Birds yearly page. Hopefully I will finish writing about birds in South Dakota by tomorrow...


September 8, 2017 [LINK / comment]

Bird breeding season 2017

Here we are, experiencing prematurely-cool autumn temperatures in the month of September, and I haven't done a blog post about birds since May 15!? How awful! You might say I was so busy birding that I didn't have enough time to blog about birding. This "catch-up" blog post will cover late May and all of June, when I made several trips into the mountains, as well as July, when my birding activity declined markedly. (I will cover more recent birding ventures later on...) What follows below is in normal chronological order.

NOTE: The photo montages seen below, and dozens of "new" individual bird photos (including some shown therein), can be see on the Wild Birds yearly page.

On May 15 I drove up toward Harrisonburg. On the way there I stopped at Cook's Creek natural area in Bridgewater, where I saw a Magnolia Warbler, a Chestnut-sided Warbler, and a Common Grackle. Eventually I ended up at Hillandale Park (on the west edge of Harrisonburg), which seems to get an amazing variety of migrant birds passing through. I saw a few good ones that day, but unfortunately didn't get any good photos. Near the cabin in that park, someone pointed out a pair of Black Rat Snakes in tree. They were probably feasting on the eggs of woodpeckers or other cavity-nesting birds. frown

Montage 15 May

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Chestnut-sided Warbler*, Yellow-breasted Chat, Orchard Oriole*, Indigo Bunting*, Eastern Towhee*, Orchard Oriole (JM), Magnolia Warbler*, and near the center, a Common Grackle. (May 16)

On May 16 I went to Coles Run Reservoir, which is on the west slope of the Blue Ridge a few miles south of Stuarts Draft. I walked across the dam, which was rebuilt a year or two ago, but didn't see any Ospreys as I had in the past there. After returning to the east side of the dam, I hiked along the reservoir for a few hundred yards, the first time I had done that. I had good views of a pair of Black & White Warblers as well as a Worm-eating Warbler, all at close range.

Montage 16 May

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Spotted Sandpiper, Indigo Buntings (M & F), Red-eyed Vireo, Worm-eating Warbler, Black & White Warblers (M & F), and near the center, a probable Swainson's Thrush. (May 16)

The next day, I went for a walk along Madison Run, east of the town of Grottoes, where I had a good view of a Wood Thrush and a Pine Warbler. If the lighting conditions had been better, I would have gotten some good photos. The day after that (May 18), I drove to Buffalo Gap in western Augusta County, and took the backroad known as Parkersburg Turnpike. (It's the old main highway to West Virginia.) I went up to Dry Branch Gap, the crest of Shenandoah Mountain, where I saw Ovenbirds, Acadian Flycatchers, Black & White Warblers, and Red-eyed Vireos. At the bottom of the mountain on the west side (near Deerfield) I saw a Phoebe in a small tree. I stopped at Chimney Hollow on Route 50 on the way back to Staunton, and I heard a Northern Parula or two, but didn't see much.

Montage 18 May

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Black & White Warbler (M), Ovenbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Acadian Flycatcher, and Eastern Phoebe. (May 20, 2017)

On May 20 I went to Nazarene wetlands, in southwest Rockingham County, in hopes of seeing a Sora, which is a chunky marsh bird similar to Rails. No luck there, although I did get a fine photo of a Red-winged Blackbird. Then I headed toward Briery Branch Road and drove to the top of Reddish Knob in hopes of seeing various warblers or Red Crossbills. I didn't have nearly as much luck that day as I had had in the past, partly because the weather quickly turned chilly, cloudy, and windy after I reached the top of the mountain at Reddish Knob.

Montage

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Killdeer, Eastern Towhee*, Chestnut-sided Warbler*, Northern Shoveler*, Indigo Bunting*, Red-winged Blackbird*, American Goldfinch*, and in center, Dark-eyed Junco. (May 20, 2017)
* All of the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

Back to Pocosin Cabin

After a week or so of rainy weather, I went hiking on Pocosin Cabin trail in the Shenandoah National Park on May 29. (My previous visit there was last October.) Here I had much better luck, and I came close to getting superb photos of a Cerulean Warbler, but it was early in the morning with bright sun glare that my camera just couldn't handle. Other warblers included: Kentucky, Canada, Hooded, Chestnut-sided, and American Redstart. Perhaps the biggest surprise that day was seeing and hearing a Least Flycatcher. I had been to that location several times before, but do not recall that species there. It was a wonderful day!

Montage 29 May 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Wood Thrush, Kentucky Warbler*, Least Flycatcher, Canada Warbler*, American Redstart*, Hooded Warbler*, Rose-breasted Grosbeak*, Cerulean Warbler*, Chestnut-sided Warbler*. (May 29, 2017)
* All of the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

But the biggest highlight of the day for me wasn't even a bird, it was a big ferocious bear -- about 200 pounds, I'd say. It came out of the bushes about 60 yards behind me, and walked along the trail for a few minutes, evidently getting a drink of water from a stream. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to return to the parking lot, and prepared to wait a long time. Fortunately, it returned to the bushes from which it had come after only about five minutes, and I was able to quickly pass where it had just been and get the heck out of Dodge!

Black Bear

Black Bear, a couple hundred yards east of Pocosin Cabin, on May 29. Roll your mouse over this image to see it walking away toward the stream.

Yellow-breasted Chat!

After getting an e-mail alert about a Yellow-breasted Chat at Hillandale Park (where I had been on May 15), I drove up on June 2. This time I had much better luck in getting a well-lit, fairly close-range photo. This bird was about 30 feet away from me, as I recall. Chats are exceedingly rare during breeding season in this area, from what I have observed. Ironically, it was while visiting Arizona three years earlier that I had some excellent closeup views of them!

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat. (June 2)

Family anecdote: When we were very young, my father, who passed away last year, mistakenly told us kids that a medium-small bird with a yellowish breast that we had seen was a Chat. NOT! Years later, my brother John (the expert birder in the family) realized that it was a Western Flycatcher, which ranges as far northeast as South Dakota.

Highland Co. field trip

On June 3, the Augusta Bird Club held its annual early summer field trip to Highland County. The Augusta Bird Club's annual late-spring field trip to Highland County (on Saturday, June 3) took place under ideal weather conditions, and was well-attended, as usual. We saw nearly all of the "target species" except for Bald Eagles, though we only had brief glimpses of a Golden-winged Warbler and a Mourning Warbler. A full report on the event is being prepared. Here are some of the highlights from the trip:

Montage 03 Jun 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Bobolink*, Chestnut-sided Warbler*, Belted Kingfisher, Canada Warbler*, American Redstart*, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow Warbler, and (in center) Grasshopper Sparrow. (June 3, 2017)
* The the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

On June 7, I had a nice view of a male Baltimore Oriole on Bell's Lane, as well as a family of Wood Ducks on the beaver pond near the north end. (That pond began to form last year, and continued to grow through the early months of this year.)

Trek into the mountains

On June 9, I embarked on an all-day journey, heading west toward the highlands. At Augusta Springs, where I saw a family of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, an Ovenbird, and a Goldfinch or two. From there I stopped in the town of Craigsville for a snack, and then drove up to Ramsey Gap, where the views were great, but the birds a little scarce. I did get some nice photos of a Pine Warbler, at least.

Montage 09 Jun 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Pine Warbler*, Ovenbird, E. Phoebe, American Goldfinch*, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers: A, J. (June 9)

Shenandoah Nat. Park

On June 11, Jacqueline and I drove through Shenandoah National Park, and saw the usual variety of warblers, at the peak of breeding season. I hiked for a bit along Wildcat Ridge Trail, where there were abundant, lush Mountain Laurel blooms. We saw quite a few birds at the Loft Mountain Wayside, but I had a hard time getting good photos. We both went for a walk along a side trail at about mile marker 72, where we saw a bunch of mushrooms, a snail, some Ovenbirds, and some Hooded Warblers. At the Bacon Hollow overlook just to the north, we saw a male and female Indigo Bunting at fairly close range.

Montage 11 Jun 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Black-and-white Warbler*, Osprey, Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, Hooded Warbler*, Indigo Bunting*, Pine Warbler*, Chipping Sparrow, and near the center, Scarlet Tanager*. (June 11, 2017)
* The the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

Golden-winged Warbler!

The very next day (June 12), I drove back to Highland County, where the bird club had spotted a Golden-winged Warbler nine days earlier. I was determined to get a good photo of that bird, whatever the cost!!! Along Wimer Mountain Road on the way there, I had a nice view of a Green Heron. Once I arrived at the house where Margaret O'Bryan used to live, it took well over two hours of patient waiting along the trail uphill from. Finally, I got a good look at it, and at least a decent photo. While there, I also saw several Chestnut-sided Warblers, Eastern Towees, and American Redstarts. I got a nasty sunburn on my neck, but it was worth it! After getting my first-ever photos of a Yellow-throated Warbler (in Florida, March 5) and a Wilson Warbler (out back, May 13), this was the third milestone warbler photo of the year for me!

Montage 12 Jun 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Golden-winged Warbler*, Chestnut-sided Warbler*, Red-headed Woodpecker, House Wren, Eastern Phoebe (plus babies in nest), and Green Heron. (June 12, 2017)
* The the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

Bell's Lane

On June 16, I headed over to Bell's Lane and soon spotted a Yellow-billed Cuckoo by the sharp corner near the stream crossing. I believe it was the first of that species I had seen this year. There were a variety of other interesting birds as well, but I had to leave abruptly as a rain storm approached.

Montage 16 Jun 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Willow Flycatcher, Wood Duck (juv.), Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Kingbird (juv.), Cedar Waxwing. (June 16, 2017)

Shen. Nat. Park (II)

On June 18, Jacqueline and I went on another day trip to the Shenandoah National Park, but this time we had some serious exercise planned. We hike to the top of Hawksbill Mountain, which is very popular with casual visitors, so we encountered a lot of people around the summit. I was thrilled to get some great closeup photos of a Canada Warbler, as well as a Veery and a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. At one of the overlooks, I got my best-ever photo of a Chestnut-sided Warbler!

Montage 18 Jun 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Canada Warbler*, Brown Thrasher, Chestnut-sided Warbler*, Eastern Towhee*, Blue-headed Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Veery and (in center) Dark-eyed Junco and Indigo Bunting*. (June 12, 2017)
* The the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

Bell's Lane (II)

On June 27, I went to Bell's Lane and got good photos of both the Baltimore Oriole and an Orchard Oriole, very close to each other. I even located a Baltimore Oriole nest, which I reported to other bird club members. (I'm not sure if we observed any fledglings there, however.) There were other nice birds as well, most notably a family of E. Kingbirds.

Montage 27 Jun 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Baltimore Oriole*, Cedar Waxwing, Orchard Oriole, House Finch*, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Kingbird, and (right of center) Red-winged Blackbird. (June 27, 2017)
* The the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

McCormick's Mill field trip

On June 28, I went on a field trip to McCormick's Mill led by Jo King. The highlights were finding a Baltimore Oriole nest next to the front pond, and getting great looks at an Eastern Wood Pewee. I also heard and then spotted a Grasshopper Sparrow on a fence some distance away. Later some of us went to nearby Willow Lake, where we saw a couple Ospreys flying overhead.

Montage 28 Jun 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Eastern Towhee*, Osprey, Baltimore Oriole, Eastern Wood Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Great Blue Heron, Canada Geese, and (right of center) Cedar Waxwing. (June 28, 2017)
* The the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

Shen. Nat. Park (III)

On June 30, I used my annual pass to the Shenandoah National Park on the very last day of its validity! (This was on the way back from Dulles Airport, where I had left Jacqueline, who was en route to Peru.) For the first time in years, I entered via the northern portal at Front Royal, and stopped at the Matthews Arm visitor center. I had a nice closeup views of a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Dark-eyed Junco, and distant views of other birds.

Montage 30 Jun 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Chestnut-sided Warbler*, Indigo Bunting*, Scarlet Tanager*, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Towhee*, and Dark-eyed Junco (June 30, 2017)
* The the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

Bell's Lane (III)

Finally, during the month of July, when the temperatures routinely soar into the nineties and birds are much less conspicuous, I just didn't spend much time birding. I just made occasional visits to Bell's Lane, of which July 7 and July 21 stand out:

Montage 07 Jul 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe, Tree Swallows, Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch*, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, and in the center, Great Blue Heron and Willow Flycatcher. (July 7, 2017)
* The the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

Montage 21 Jul 2017

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Orchard Oriole, Indigo Bunting*, American Goldfinch*, Field Sparrow, Brown Thrasher, Tree Swallow, and Green Heron. (July 21, 2017)
* The the sexually dimorphic species here are males.

The above photo montage, and several individual bird photos (including some shown therein), can be see on the Wild Birds yearly page. Tomorrow I will summarize my birding ventures in South Dakota and Wisconsin during the early days of August...



tiny tanager

Favorite warblers
(already seen):

  1. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  2. Magnolia Warbler
  3. Prothonotary Warbler
  4. Blackburnian Warbler
  5. Yellow Warbler
  6. Northern Parula
  7. Black-throated Green Warbler
  8. Canada Warbler
  9. Common Yellowthroat
  10. American Redstart

Yet-unseen warblers:
(eastern species)


Yet-unseen warblers:
(western & semitropical)


"Abundant" birds
(ones I normally don't bother counting):