Andrew Clem blog home


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
Special archives:

Bird photos

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

Birding Web sites:

Reciprocal links:


Conservation links


May 22, 2023 [LINK / comment]

(Catchup up): Birding last December

December 3, Montgomery Hall Park : The big highlight that afternoon was a Hermit Thrush that posed for me in a bush only about 15 feet away. The Winter Wren kept chattering loudly, but it mostly stayed hidden in the thickets. A few woodpeckers, including a Hairy, rounded out the notable sightings of the day..

December 4, Lake Shenandoah: I found out from Facebook (rather than the shenvalbirds email group, which seems to have expired) about an extremely rare MacGillivray's Warbler east of Harrisonburg, in Rockingham County. About a half hour after I arrived (11:00?) I had a brief closeup view of the bird at the end of a trail about 1/4 mile west of the lake, and that it was where I spent most of my time looking. Special thanks to Kurt Hoffman, from Monroe County, WV, for alerting those of us who were over there to the bird's new location in the reeds along the south edge of the lake. Finally, just before 2:00 it popped into view again, and I managed to get two quick photos. It was my first-ever MacGillivray's Warbler, only the third one ever seen in Virginia! The bright yellow and green colors are dazzling, and quite unexpected in winter. The bird was seen again for the next few weeks, but not after late December. This species breeds in higher elevations in the northwest USA and Canada, so it is presumably used to harsh conditions, but one wonders how it could survive a hard freeze.

MacGillivray's Warbler

MacGillivray's Warbler (Lake Shenandoah, Dec. 4)

December 10, Lake Shenandoah: After a bit of shopping in Harrisonburg, Jacqueline and I stopped briefly at Lake Shenandoah, but my hopes of seeing the MacGillivray's Warbler again did not pan out. As a consolation prize, I was amazed to see two Great Egrets, which should have been hundreds of miles to the south and/or east by then!

Birds 2022 Dec 10

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Great Blue Heron, White-throated Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird (F), Great Egret, and Eastern Bluebird. (Lake Shenandoah, Dec. 4)

December 19, Verona: On the way back from Blue Ridge Community College, I stopped at the pond behind Hardee's, and saw a dozen or so Hooded Mergansers, among other birds. Further along Mill Place Parkway there was a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks that seemed to be getting to know each other. Along Bell's Lane I saw another Red-shouldered Hawk, being harassed by an American Kestrel, as well as a "gray ghost" male Northern Harrier.

Birds 2022 Dec 19

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier (M), Red-shouldered Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Hooded Mergansers (F & M), and at left center, American Kestrel (F). (Verona & Bell's Lane, Dec. 19)

December 25, Waynesboro: On Christmas Jacqueline and I took a drive toward Waynesboro, and I spotted the very same Trumpeter Swan that visits the pond every year: tag # P-61! On the way back I did a short walk along the Murphy-Deming trail, and spotted some Yellow-rumped Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Across Rt. 250 from the Shell station in Fishersville, the resident Red-shouldered Hawk perched along a power line was looking for a late lunch.

December 29, Bell's Lane: After several fruitless late-afternoon visits to the upland pastures to which the Short-eared Owls return almost every winter, I decided to stay around for a while after sunset, and finally succeeded in spotting one. About 5:25 Mike Smith (from Elkton) drew my attention to a low-flying raptor, and I soon identified the rounded wing tips, markings, and large head size to positively identify TWO such owls -- my first ones of the season! In the same field (at the entrance to Carolyn Ford's farm) we had also seen ten or so Eastern Meadowlarks, somewhat of a surprise.

December 30, Braley Pond : For my last bird outing of the year, I went hiking along Braley Pond, in the foothills of western Augusta County. Other than Red-breasted Nuthatches (numerous once again), there weren't any winter birds of note until I reached the farthest point of my hike, about a half mile beyond the western end of the lake. That is when I heard and then saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in a distant tree. I'm amazed I was able to get a decent photo of him, providing a suitable ending to another year of birding.

Birds 2022 Dec 30

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (M), Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee. and White-breasted Nuthatches. (Braley Pond, Dec. 30)

As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.

May 19, 2023 [LINK / comment]

(Catching up): Birding last November

November 3, Bell's Lane: I had some decent views of a Red-tailed Hawk and a Great Blue Heron, but the highlights came toward the end, when I spotted some rare Rusty Blackbirds among all the American Robins and European Starlings (just north of the "beaver pond"), as well as a huge flock (2,000+) of Common Grackles and a lone Northern Harrier (adult male) as dusk was about to fall.

November 4, Montgomery Hall Park: I was startled to see a coyote! It was stalking the woods uphill from where they dump waste wood. I did at least see a Hermit Thrush, plus a few sparrows, etc. Near the kiosk on Bell's Lane I glimpsed some Yellow-rumped Warblers. Back home a young Sharp-shinned (or Cooper's?) Hawk was feasting on an unfortunate squirrel.

Birds 2022 Nov 4

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Hermit Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker, juvenile Sharp-shinned (or Cooper's) Hawk, and White-breasted Nuthatch. (Montgomery Hall Park, Bell's Lane, & N. Staunton, Nov. 4)

November 5, Braley Pond: Jacqueline and I went hiking in the Braley Pond area today, a major change of plans after we encountered a mass of fog and drizzle along the Blue Ridge. The weather was better, but still partly cloudy for most of the time. Once again, there were a number of Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches present, as well as Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and various woodpeckers. The big highlights were a Hermit Thrush hiding in a bush and an American Woodcock (my second one over the past seven days!) that flushed from just a few feet in front of us. As usual, my efforts to locate it did not pan out. Rather oddly, I didn't see any kinglets or Fox Sparrows.

November 7, Bell's Lane: It was a beautiful morning and I had nice views of various birds. Late in the afternoon I returned in hopes of seeing a Norther Harrier (at the usual place), and my efforts were soon rewarded!

Birds 2022 Nov 7

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Eastern Bluebird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (M), Norther Harrier, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Towhee, and Downy Woodpecker. (Bell's Lane, Nov. 9)

November 12, Dowell's Draft trail: I missed the club's field trip to Swoope, and instead went my own way, eventually getting lucky with some nice closeup views. I saw my first Brown Creepers and first Winter Wren of the season, along with several others. I also glimpsed a Pileated Woodpecker and a Hermit Thrush, and I'm pretty sure I heard the "smack" call of a Fox Sparrow, but never did see it, unfortunately.

Birds 2022 Nov 12

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Dark-eyed Junco, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Winter Wren. (Dowell's Draft, Nov. 12)

November 19, Elkhorn Lake and Braley Pond: I went hiking mainly to get exercise. Not surprisingly, given the frigid temperatures, I saw hardly anything other than some Juncos and a Red-shouldered Hawk in that area. At the lake I saw several Scaups (not sure which), Hooded Mergansers, and Buffleheads. No Bald Eagles near the nest, however. Near the intersection where the restroom is located were two Winter Wrens.

November 24, Bell's Lane: A vigorous walk in the afternoon proved very fruitful, as I had spectacular views of Northern Harriers and a Red-tailed Hawk flying overhead!

Birds 2022 Nov 24

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Harrier (F/J), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Harrier (M), White-throated Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk, and Carolina Wren. (Bell's Lane, Nov. 24)

November 26, Swoope: I finally saw my first Savannah Sparrow of the season, on top of a fence post. A Northern Harrier and some American Kestrels were patrolling the area east of the post office. I had good luck along the private road that extends west from the Boy Scout camp toward the mountains. There I saw a boatload of songbirds, including Cedar Waxwings, American Goldfinches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Brown Creepers, as well as woodpeckers, etc. etc.

November 28, Bell's Lane: Among the highlights on the ABC field trip led by Penny Warren were American Coots and Double-crested Cormorants, both first-of-season for me. We also saw some distant Ring-necked Ducks and a Pied-billed Grebe, and some folks had a great closeup view of a Red-tailed Hawk.

Birds 2022 Nov 28

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Eastern Bluebird, American Coot, Double-crested Cormorant, Northern Harrier (M), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (M), and Red-shouldered Hawk. (Bell's Lane, Nov. 28)

As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.

May 13, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Catching up?!: Birding last October

October 3, Bell's Lane: I was hoping for a warbler fallout after the rains from Hurricane Ian, in vain as it turned out, but the surprise sightings that I *did* have more than made up for the disappointment. Along the middle stretch just north of the sharp bend was a group of White-crowned Sparrows, my first ones of the season. Local resident Carolyn Ford was passing by and told me about a Bald Eagle on her property. Not only that, but a first-of-season Northern Harrier that was being chased by a Red-tailed Hawk!

Birds 2022 Oct 3

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Harrier, Great Blue Heron, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-crowned Sparrow, Blue-headed Vireo, Bald Eagle, and in center, Red-tailed Hawk and Eastern Phoebe. (Bell's Lane, Oct. 3)

October 7, Augusta Springs: As expected, I saw my first Yellow-rumped Warblers as well as White-throated Sparrow of the season. Several Ruby-crowned Kinglets were flitting about, but no other warblers were in evidence. The other highlights were a group of Red-breasted Nuthatches and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo which quickly flew away.

October 9, Bell's Lane: I saw my first Palm Warbler of the season, as well as a Northern Harrier on Carolyn Ford's property. Carolyn waved at me from a distance, so I went to see what it was about, and she told me there was an injured Common Nighthawk along her driveway. We called the Virginia Wildlife Center in Waynesboro to get instructions, and she took it to there the next morning. We later learned, however, that its wing was irreparably broken and had to be euthanized. Very sad.

Birds 2022 Oct 9

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Common Nighthawk, Palm Warbler, and Northern Harrier. (Bell's Lane, Oct. 9)

October 12, north Staunton and Bell's Lane: Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers drew my attention to the trees out back this morning, and before you knew it, I saw my first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of the season! Along Bell's Lane late in the afternoon, there were quite a few birds, including my first Golden-crowned Kinglets of the season!.

Birds 2022 Oct 12

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and in center, Eastern Phoebe. (north Staunton & Bell's Lane, Oct. 12)

October 15, Augusta Springs & Swoope: I led a very successful ABC field trip, as we encountered interesting birds almost from the very beginning. Thanks to Kristin Fuoco (who presented the program at our club's September meeting) and her friend Javier, we saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo in a big sycamore tree. Later we saw groups of Red-breasted Nuthatches at two different locations, just where I said we might expect them. Later on, Wendy & Jim Hill (new members of the club) joined me on a drive through Swoope, and near the intersection of North Mountain Road and Scott-Christian Road we encountered a spectacular array of warblers: Palm (15+), Yellow-rumped (2+), and Pine.

Birds 2022 Oct 15

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Palm Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, and in center, Rose-breasted Grosbeak. (Augusta Springs & Swoope, Oct. 15)

October 22, Shenandoah National Park : Jacqueline and I went for a drive through the to see the fall foliage yesterday, stopping to hike briefly at Pocosin Cabin and Hawksbill Mountain. Highlights included a Blue-headed Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Dark-eyed Juncos. Up above were a Red-tailed Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk, as well as a Common Raven that expressed hostility to the raptors.

October 23, Swoope: I went back to the same hot spot along North Mountain Road in Swoope where we had stopped eight days earlier, and was surprised to see a lone Magnolia Warbler foraging in the weeds. Very late migrant! In the distance I spotted a young Red-headed Woodpecker, frantically moving about. Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-throated Sparrows, and were conspicuous as well.

Birds 2022 Oct 23

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Eastern Phoebe, Pine Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-throated Sparrow, and in center, Magnolia Warbler. (Swoope, Oct. 23)

October 29, Fishersville : In the afternoon went for a casual walk on the trail behind the Murphy-Deming Nursing School. While pursuing an Eastern Towhee in the bushes, I had a brief view of an American Woodcock flying away, with the characteristic twittering sound. It was the first of that species I had seen for well over a year at least! Attempts to lure it back into the open proved to be futile. I also saw at least a dozen Cedar Waxwings as well as a few Red-breasted Nuthatches.

As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.

May 9, 2023 [LINK / comment]

Catching up??: Birding last September

September 2, Madison Run: I hiked up the Furnace Mountain trail, which veers right (south) from Madison Run, enjoying some nice sunlit views of the Shenandoah Valley as I climbed higher. There weren't many birds in the higher elevations, but I did see some good ones as I returned to the bottom.

Birds 2022 Sep 2

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Scarlet Tanager (molting male), Eastern Wood Pewee, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, American Goldfinch, Acadian Flycatcher, and Ovenbird. (Madison Run, Sept. 2)

September 7, Betsy Bell Hill: I saw a variety of migrating birds, most notably a possible Blue-winged Warbler that was obscured by the leaves, and view of a the underside of a possible Swainson's Warbler, which would have been a life bird for me. Mediocre sunlight didn't help. Others included Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, and a female Scarlet Tanager.

September 10, Bother Knob: I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip, and we hiked about two miles north from "Crossbill crossroads," at the top of the mountain ridge that defines the West Virginia state line. [This is north of Reddish Knob, which has been the destination of past ABC field trips, but I had never been there before.] We saw a number of Cedar Waxwings, Dark-eyed Juncos, Eastern Towhees, etc. As we trudged along a road full of mud puddles, in a veritable "enchanted forest" full of Northern Hemlock and Fraser Fir trees, we encountered more "hot spots," with a variety of warblers, and best of all, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. [We came close to Bother Knob, but the path to the top was more circuitous than I had expected; maybe next time.] On the return leg of the hike we spotted more warblers, while a Bald Eagle and a Red-shouldered Hawk soared up above. Altogether we tallied about 30 species.

Birds 2022 Sep 10

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Cedar Waxwing, Rose-breasted Grosbeak (F), American Redstart (F/J), Dark-eyed Junco, possible Cape May Warbler, Bald Eagle, Black-throated Blue Warbler (M), Red-shouldered Hawk, and Black-and-white Warbler. (near Bother Knob, Sept. 10)

September 11, Bother Knob: The very next day I stopped at Leonard's Pond in Rockingham County, and was surprised to see a pair of Sanderlings, which frequent Atlantic beaches in the colder months.

Birds 2022 Sep 10

Sanderlings (Leonard's Pond, Sept. 11)

September 12, Bell's Lane: The very next day (Monday) I joined an Augusta Bird Club field trip led by Penny Warren. While we were looking at an American Redstart in the bushes, Eric Pritchett, the chief meteorologist at WVIR Channel 29 in Charlottesville, jogged past (as he often does on Bell's Lane) and asked what we were looking at. I told him, and later submitted the photo to Channel 29, and while doing the weather one day later, he showed that Redstart photo during the weather segment. That was a great bit of publicity for our club!

Birds 2022 Sep 12

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-tailed Hawk, American Redstart (F/J), Brown Thrasher, House Finch (F), American Kestrel, and in center, Northern Flicker (M). (Bell's Lane, Sept. 12)

September 17, Blue Ridge Parkway: I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip in search of migrants, and we had a fair amount of success. This event was in conjunction with the annual Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch open house, at the Afton Inn.

Birds 2022 Sep 17

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler (F/J), Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Parula, Swainson's Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, and in center, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Scarlet Tanager (F). (Blue Ridge Pkwy, Sept. 17)

September 19, Montgomery Hall Park: A casual walk through the woodland trail paid off with two great migrant sightings: Magnolia Warbler and White-eyed Vireo, and several others as well.

Birds 2022 Sep 19

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Magnolia Warbler, American Redstart (M), White-eyed Vireo, Red-tailed Hawk, House Wren, American Redstart (F/J), and at left center, Black-and-white Warbler. (Montgomery Hall Park, Sept. 19)

September 21, Bell's Lane: I saw my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Yellow-rumped Warbler of the fall season, and had nice views of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwings, etc.

September 23, Weymouth Woods, North Carolina: Jacqueline and I took a weekend trip to see the Farm Aid concert in Raleigh, NC, and on the morning of that event we spent a couple hours in a pine forest that has been preserved as a natural habitat. (It's not far from world-famous Pinehurt Country Club.) I was hoping to see the rare Red-cockaded Woodpecker, a species that is unique in building its nest in live pine trees rather than dead or decaying ones. I'm pretty sure I heard it, but I never did see it. I did see several Pine Warblers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Eastern Towhees, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Jacqueline really enjoyed that forest, and was impressed by the huge pine cones, so we bought some Weymouth Woods souvenir apparel.

As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.

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):