April 4, 2010 [LINK / comment]

Happy Easter bird watching

The veritable heat wave of the past week has all but erased memories of the horrible Winter of 2009-2010, and the feathered creatures have begun to arrive more or less on schedule from their wintering grounds far to the south. At long last, Spring migration is truly underway.

I've been driving out to the Bell's Lane area every couple days recently, and today marked another record-setting milestone for me. In the woods about 1/2 mile east of I-81 along Route 276, I heard, and finally saw, my first Blue-gray gnatcatcher of the year. The earliest I had ever seen that species before this year was April 9. (They have nested above Lewis Creek there in summers past, along with both kinds of orioles.) The gnatcatcher was accompanied by a few Titmice and Yellow-rumped warblers, and several Northern Rough-winged swallows (first of year!) were circling around the cow pasture nearby.

On Bell's Lane itself, not much was going on, but soon I glimpsed a couple small yellowish birds flitting about the vine-covered road-side fence, and soon confirmed that they were Palm warblers, also my first of the year. Too bad they flew away just as I was about to take their picture.

Three new arrivals: not a bad way to celebrate Easter Sunday! Now I'm going to have to update my Annual arrival page...

Other recent sightings

On Bell's Lane yesterday, I saw my first Barn swallows of the year, beating my previous earliest-sighting record by one day. I saw my first Tree swallows out there about a week ago, more or less when they are expected.

Allen Larner has spread the word about a rookerie (nesting colony) that has been established by a large group of Great blue herons on Frank's Mill Road, less than three miles northwest of Staunton. I spotted a couple dozen of them on my second visit to that location about a week ago. It's truly an amazing sight to behold so many large birds in one place.

On my way to the Green Valley Book Fair on March 24, I saw three Green-winged teals (1M, 2F) at Leonard's Pond. On the campus of James Madison University later that afternoon, I saw a Kinglet (not sure which) that was singing his tiny head off in the bushes.