September 20, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.