October 13, 2012 [LINK / comment]

Field trip to Augusta Springs

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.

Cape May Warbler

Yet another Cape May Warbler (female or juvenile), this time in our back yard on October 1. They seem to be getting more common in recent years. Roll over to compare to an adult male of that species, which I photographed on September 19.

I also added three photos to the Spiders photo gallery page.