May 26, 2021 [LINK / comment]
Birding in April: pretty good, but...
With more time on my hands than I usually have during the spring months, I had high hopes to see some of the less-common migrating warblers, but thus far the results have not been particularly noteworthy. On Easter Day (April 4) I saw my first N. Rough-winged Swallows and a Barn Swallow at pond in front of the Frontier Culture Museum, and later that day saw my first Savannah Sparrow on Bell's Lane. Except when calling attention to special events or noteworthy/unusual sightings, the captions to the following photo montages will suffice to describe the birding highlights of the month.
April 10: Cooper's Hawk in the back yard, followed by a visit (my first) to the Broadway water treatment plant to see a distant Eared Grebe (as well as Ruddy Ducks, etc.), and then the JMU Arboretum in Harrisonburg.
April 11: casual walk in Ridgeview Park, Waynesboro with Jacqueline; Palm Warbler (first of season / FOS) and Brown Creeper.
April 15: Augusta Bird Club field trip to Bell's Lane led by Penny Warren. Highlights: FOS Chimney Swift, Osprey, and three Blue-winged Teals (2 M, 1 F).
April 18: At Braley Pond, a Bald Eagle flew right past me and landed in a nearby tree long enough for me to get a decent photo. I also had a nice closeup of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
April 24: Augusta Bird Club field trip to Augusta Springs Wetlands, with six members; the only trip I led that month. Almost immediately a Yellow-throated Vireo in the treetops made its presence known. Two White-breasted Nuthatches were occupied with a nest hole next to the parking area. Highlights along the boardwalk included an Orchard Oriole (FOS), a female Mallard with ten ducklings, and a Brown Thrasher. Along the upland trail, we saw Louisiana Waterthrushes (FOS), Ovenbirds (FOS), a Worm-eating Warbler (FOS), and some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. We heard but did not see Pine Warblers, a Black-throated Green Warbler (FOS), and two Red-breasted Nuthatches. There were also Blue-headed Vireos at a few places, as well as an Eastern Towhee or two. Near the springs toward the end of our walk, most of us (but not me) saw a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The eBird checklist compiled by Dan Perkuchin included 41 species total at Augusta Springs. (We later learned that Vic Laubach had seen a Kentucky Warbler there earlier in the morning.) On the way back to Staunton, most of us drove to the Swoope area to check out the Bald Eagle nest along North Mountain Road. The mother, father, and two eaglets all seem to be doing just fine. As an added bonus, we spotted one or two Red-headed Woodpeckers in a nearby tree. Those and other birds in Swoope raised our species count to about 46 for the day.
April 26: return visit to Augusta Springs (with Ann Cline) with nicer weather, but pretty much the same birds. The Worm-eating Warbler below looks like it was hopping along the branch, but was probably about to take off.
April 27: Rt. 610 / Blue Ridge Parkway, with my first Black-and-white and Cerulean Warblers of the year, as well as my first American Redstart.
April 29: I organized an informal "expedition" to the "Warbler Road" area east of Buchanan, Virginia, with four other ABC members: Peter Van Acker, Penny Warren, Ann Cline, and Linda Corwin. (It wasn't an official "field trip," since it would have been impractical to let any member come along on such a long trip.) We drove in two cars, and it was my first time birding in that renowned "hot spot." Highlights: Cape May Warbler (FOS), Indigo Bunting (FOS), and White-eyed Vireo (FOS) near the James River; Wild Turkey and Orchard Oriole near the village of Solitude; and Northern Parulas (incl. a female with nesting material), Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Hooded Warbler along the roads (Rt. 59, 768, and 812) ascending the Blue Ridge.
Soon after reaching the Blue Ridge Parkway we took a lunch break, and then headed north, stopping at several overlooks along the way. After crossing the James River we stopped at the visitor center and then recrossed the river on the pedestrian bridge, and found several more species such as Blue Grosbeak (FOS), Common Yellowthroat (FOS), and Warbling Vireo (FOS). After that we paused briefly at a pond just north of the visitor center and saw some Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers. The final stop was at Yankee Horse Ridge historical site, where a railroad used to pass, a few miles south of the road to Raphine. There we saw multiple American Redstarts, Black-and-white Warblers, and my first Black-throated Blue Warbler of the year.
So, even though April ended with a fairly big "bang," bird-wise, overall it fell a bit short of what I had been anticipating. More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological page.