Spring bird migration is in full swing
After the long, miserable winter of 2013-2014, nature lovers are finally getting to enjoy the Great Outdoors. There have been a few more nice surprises this month, and hopefully we'll get lucky again as we reach the peak of the seasonal migration. Just like last month, here is a quick recapitulation of my birding ventures since the first of the month:
After class on April 3, I walked through the woods at Central Virginia Community College, and soon heard the familiar song of a Blue-headed Vireo. Soon I spotted it high in the tree tops, and took a fairly good photo. I also saw a few woodpeckers, including a Flicker, but no other really noteworthy birds, however.
On Saturday April 5, I went to Augusta Springs for the first time this year, and I saw some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, but the only good (bird) photo I got was that of a Winter Wren, possibly the same one I photographed there last November.
Scouting Chimney Hollow
In preparation for my Augusta Bird Club field trip to Chimney Hollow tomorrow, I scouted the trail on April 12, and after a slow start, I eventually had some nice bird encounters. The weather was cool but not uncomfortable, and the ground in that stream basin was relatively dry. This first photo below was especially lucky, as the Red-breasted Nuthatch came within 15 feet of me, responding very eagerly to his species' call being played on my iPod:
Red-breasted Nuthatches are a northerly species that is only seen on occasion in this region during the colder months. Soon they will all be gone, which is why I was so pleased to get that photo. Likewise, these next two birds below flew close to me several times, trying to find where the song was coming from. I had been trying to get good-quality photos of all three of these bird species for some time, so the results were very satisfying to me:
Bell's Lane events
On April 13, Palm Sunday, I attended a "Kites 'n Critters" public event at the Moore-Ford farm on the northwest corner of the Bell's Lane area. It was the first time I had gone into there, and I joined a guided tour by a local biologist who explained the various conservation measures that are aimed at restoring the pasture land, thus helping to reduce soil runoff and clean up the Chesapeake Bay, where the rivers in this region eventually lead. A day later, Augusta Bird Club President Penny Warren and I spent about two hours cleaning up discarded beverage containers from the side of the road. It was tedious and unpleasant work, but the results were very rewarding. As we were leaving, I saw my first Brown Thrasher of the year.
Another Sandhill Crane
One of the big surprises was a report of a Sandhill Crane on Barrenridge Road, north of Fishersville. (I had already seen three of that species west of Harrisonburg last month, but they were too far away for a good photo.) To my delight, when I went on April 16, I saw the Crane next to a pond less than 200 yards away. Excellent!
Return to Madison Run
I got ambitious on April 19, the day before Easter, and hiked for about three miles (round trip) along the Madison Run trail. It was the first time I had gone that far, beginning the steep uphill climb along the Blue Ridge, part of the Shenandoah National Park. During my hike, I saw several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a couple Louisiana Waterthrushes, an Ovenbird, and some Black and White Warblers. There were also a fair number of butterflies (which love the horse manure on that trail!), including a Falcate Orange-tip, which I photographed for the first time.
Piney River stopover
Finally, I have stopped at the Piney River trail in Nelson Country three or four times on my way home from CVCC, and have taken a few good photos. The very best one was taken just yesterday:
That spectacular closeup shot would make a fine concluding image for the month of April, but I'm hoping for a few more in the next five days. More bird photos are on the Wild Birds, yearly photo gallery page. Also see the Butterflies photo gallery page.