January 21, 2017
I was going to lead a field trip for the Augusta Bird Club to Montgomery Hall Park this morning, but -- once again -- nobody else showed up! So, I quickly changed plans and hurried west to Highland County, where Allen Larner was leading a field trip that was originally scheduled for January 7. I only stopped briefly at the Confederate Breastworks (at the top of the mountain ridge which defines the county line), getting a nice view of the thick layer of fog that blanketed the lowlands. Then I proceeded directly to the house across from Snowy Mountain where Margaret O'Bryan used to live, where we always visit. I was guessing that was where the group would be, but as it turned out I arrived first. The skies turned sunny, and I was excited to see three Bald Eagles about a quarter mile away. After 20 minutes or so, I headed south and soon found the other two carload of birders. So returned to the place I had just visited, and thanks to Allen Larner's "eagle eyes," I saw a Golden Eagle almost a mile away. We both saw a probably Golden Eagle on the way back south, but I couldn't get a photo of it. (Arghh!) We then drove around looking for Snipes, to no avail, and after that searched for Rough-legged Hawks, likewise without result. We did see a few good birds here and there, including a noisy Kestrel circling overhead.
After a rest stop in Monterrey, Allen and two other birders headed south to Lake Moomaw in Bath County, while I headed back to Staunton. (I had scheduled a field trip to Lake Moomaw for Saturday, December 10, but had to cancel it because of freezing temperatures.) On the way back to Staunton I made brief stops near a wildlife preserve southwest of the town of Headwaters, at Confederate Breastworks (again), and at Chimney Hollow, but didn't see hardly any birds. Overall, it was kind of a mediocre day, bird-wise.
One day earlier (Friday, which was Inauguration Day!), I stopped at the pond behind Hardees in Verona, where I had seen several Hooded Merganser the week before. The sun was finally shining after several days of gloom and doom, and I was hoping to get a better photo of those stunning ducks. After a minute, I spotted them, and got some nice photos after a few of them swam in my direction. Now if I could only get within 20 yards rather than 40 yards...