October 13, 2012
In spite of wet, chilly weather, the Augusta Bird Club field trip I led to Augusta Springs Wetlands Trail last Sunday (October 7) was a big success. Turnout was light (only two other members), but there were plenty of birds. Allen Larner and I checked out the Swoope area on the way out there, and saw large flocks of Canada Geese, some White-crowned Sparrows (first-of-season for me), an immature Bald Eagle, a Kestrel, a Northern Harrier, and several Phoebes.
Arriving at Augusta Springs, we were joined by Buck Kent, and donned our rain jackets as the drizzle got heavier. Walking along the boardwalk / trail, we observed a mixture of newly-arriving winter birds (e.g., Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Swamp Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos) and late-departing neotropical migrants (e.g., Blue-headed Vireos, Philadelphia Vireo, and Red-eyed Vireo, and Nashville Warbler, Magnolia Warblers, Pine Warbler, Black-throated Green Warblers, and a male Scarlet Tanager). We were extremely busy trying to keep track of everything at one particular hot spot. Phoebes were again numerous, and Towhees and a Pileated Woodpecker made impressionable appearances.
On the return trip to Staunton, Allen and I drove around the Swoope area again. At the Boy Scout Camp we saw Pied-billed Grebes and a group of Lincoln's Sparrows, which provided us with excellent views. On Cattleman's Road southeast of Trimble's Mill we saw a large flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds. In brushy places further north we saw many Palm Warblers, and a few Common Yellowthroats and Yellow-rumped Warblers. At Smith's Pond we saw an adult Bald Eagle perched in a distant tree, and our only Great Blue Heron of the day, but no ducks or shorebirds. While heading back east of Swoope, Allen noticed some big birds in a field near the Middle River. It turns out they were two Northern Harriers, and before long we saw two more flying around, including an adult male "Gray Ghost." It was a dramatic end to a very successful (though wet) day of birding.
Altogether, we saw 61 species: 45 around Swoope, and 43 at Augusta Springs.
I also added three photos to the Spiders photo gallery page.