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February 2018
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February 28, 2018 [LINK / comment]

First gig at Shenandoah Brewing

Last month, I started asking around different local establishments about the possibility of doing music shows, and scored a gig on February 17 with Shenandoah Brewing, located in downtown Staunton. (See their website.) I was hoping to follow up on the big success of my show at the Valley Smokehouse (see January 30 blog post), but a wintry weather forecast depressed the turnout. For most of the time that I played that evening (from 8:00 until 10:15 or so), there were about eight to ten people there. Fortunately, it was a friendly crowd, and they enjoyed what I played.

Seq-uenceGroupSong titleHarmonica? (key)
1Ozark Mountain DaredevilsStanding On The RockC
2Ozark Mountain DaredevilsLeatherwoodA
3Johnny CashI Walk the Line
4EaglesLyin' Eyes
5EaglesTequila SunriseG
6Bob DylanLike A Rolling StoneC
7Simon & GarfunkleMrs. Robinson
8BeatlesLove Me DoC
9Creedence Clearwater RevivalGreen River
10John FogertyThe Old Man Down the RoadE
11Neil YoungHarvest MoonG
12Neil YoungMy My, Hey HeyBb
13PocoHeart of the NightC
14Doobie BrothersLong Train RunningC
15John DenverTake Me Home, Country Roads
16BeatlesCome Together C
17John Cougar MellencampPink Houses
18Classics IVStormy
19Classics IVTracesD
20Andrew ClemBetter Left UnsaidG
2110 CCI'm Not In Love
22Pink FloydBreathe In the AirA
23Pink FloydUs and Them
24Bob SegerTurn the PageG
25Gin BlossomsFound Out About You
26Ozark Mountain DaredevilsIf You Wanna Get To HeavenF *
27Tom PettyHere Comes My Girl

Some more folks came in about ten minutes after I finished, so I offered to play one more song for them. They requested a Tom Petty song, so I played "Here Comes My Girl," which they appreciated. Then I sat down to enjoy a pint of ale and had a nice chat with the bartender, Simon, who hails from Great Britain and once worked as a roadie in the British rock group The Jam. (See He also met Sir Paul McCartney once, introduced by a mutual friend. That's pretty amazing. Shenandoah Brewing has a great atmosphere, and I look forward to playing there again -- hopefully soon!

Shenandoah Brewing stage

The stage at Shenandoah Brewing, with the various musical decorations on the wall in back. On the left, wearing the black beret, is Chapman, the proprietor.

In contrast to my January 20 show at the Valley Smokehouse, which has its own big P.A. system, this time I had to use my own amplifier / P.A. system. As you can see, it is highly portable, and looks like a fat suitcase. I can set the whole thing up (including microphone and speaker stands) in about 15-20 minutes. On this particular night, unfortunately, I had to lug all of my equipment from the garage where my car was parked, almost a block away.

Fender Passport PA system

My Fender Passport P.A. system, all packed up.

Much more open mic music

After missing a week, I had a great time at the Queen City Brewing open mic event on the final Wednesday night of January (the 31st). It was just Fritz Horisk, Kimball Swanson, and me, so we each had to do extra songs, and we really rose to the occasion. I played a song by the 70s group Badfinger for the first time, so I told the tragic story about the guy who wrote most of their songs, Pete Ham. He committed suicide after realizing that his group had been ripped off in their contract with the record company. Here's the full set list:

NOTE: ( # ) indicates that I played the song with a harmonica.

The very next night (February 1), I played at the Barrenridge Vineyard open mic event for the first time since October 19, I believe. I jokingly told the host, Bill Harlow, "It's a miracle!" As usual, it was a big friendly crowd, at least 20 people. The first three songs I had just played the night before:

Back at Queen City Brewing on February 7, it was just Fritz Horisk, Brandon Cook, Den Fruman, and me, so once again we each had to do extra songs. The first song I played was "inspired" by Stormy Daniels, the porn star who allegedly accepted a large chunk of money to keep quiet about her alleged relationship with President Trump. There were six (or perhaps seven) songs altogether:

I missed Valentine's Day at Queen City Brewing, but played at Barrenridge Vineyard the very next night (February 15), accompanied by my lovely wife Jacqueline. There were more musicians this time, so I only played three songs:

I returned to Queen City Brewing a week later, on February 21. It was just Fritz Horisk, Kimball Swanson, Craig Austin (percussion), a new guy named Rourke, and me, so we each did eight songs. I played:

Tonight (February 28), there was some truly high-quality talent at Queen City Brewing, and in big numbers: Larry Ragland, Denny Ballard, Donna Ballard, me, Pasquale Dimeo, Matt Getsey and Craig Austin! My set consisted of:

Unfortunately, I didn't play the intro to "Cinderella" very cleanly, and likewise I missed some notes on the final song, "Susie Q." There's always room for improvement. But at least I pulled off the lead "guitar" part of "Take It Easy" (using the harmonica in public on that song for the first time) very well, and did just fine on "You Know Like I Know."

February 28, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Field trip to Madison Run

Bad weather forced the cancellation or postponement of two Augusta Bird Club field trips in January, including the scheduled trip to Highland County. But conditions improved on January 27, as ten club members (and friends) went hiking along the Madison Run Fire Road, on the edge of the Shenandoah National Park near the town of Grottoes. Approximately 22 species were identified by sight or sound, including some at a nearby house with a feeder. The highlight was a brief view I had of a Ruffed Grouse that flushed from the bushes along the road. A Hermit Thrush and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were also seen by some members, but not me. Afterwards, some of the participants paid a brief visit to Bell's Lane and saw two Sharp-shinned Hawks and a Northern Harrier.

Montage 27 Jan 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: White-breasted Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and in center, American Goldfinch. (January 27, 2018)

Other birds of note

On January 7, Jacqueline and I were in Waynesboro, so I stopped at the pond along Rt. 254 on northeast edge of town where I had seen the Trumpeter Swan the week before, and this time got some nice, well-lit photos.

Trumpeter Swan

On January 23, we were on a casual country drive north of town, and spotted an American Kestrel on a fence post near Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport. It was a great photo op, and perhaps my best photo ever of that species.

American Kestrel

I was in Harrisonburg on January 24, so I stopped at the JMU Arboretum for the first time in several months, and was rewarded with nice views of a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a White-breasted Nuthatch. Then I drove to Bridgewater in hopes of seeing something special [on the North River], but only saw a couple Pied-billed Grebes and an American Coot. Back home, one of our canaries started giving an alarm call, and I soon realized there was a Cooper's Hawk in a tree out back, so I snapped a quick picture before it flew off.

Montage 24 Jan 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Pied-billed Grebes, White-breasted Nuthatch, [Cooper's] Hawk, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Coot, and Eastern Bluebird. (January 24, 2018)

February birding blues

Except for the Short-eared Owls (see below), there wasn't really much birding activity for most of this month. On February 9, I went to a neighborhood in Waynesboro in hopes of seeing a Baltimore Oriole that has been there for over a month, but I struck out. There were plenty of Robins, Cedar Waxwings, and other birds at least. On February 23, I drove up to Dayton, hoping to see a White-winged Scoter on Silver Lake, but it was already gone. I did at least get another look at the Long-tailed Duck that I had seen there in December. I also had distant views of Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and a Bufflehead. A few American Coots were farther away. By the White Wave plant [in Mount Crawford] on the way home, I saw a group of Common Grackles, another sign that spring is drawing near!

Montage 23 Feb 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Common Grackle, Long-tailed Duck, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, and in center, a Bufflehead. (February 23, 2018)

Field trip to Montgomery Hall Park

On Saturday, February 24 I led a field trip to Montgomery Hall Park, with seven club members attending altogether. Temperatures were mild, but it was overcast, resulting in mediocre visibility. Approximately 30 species were seen or heard over the course of two and a half hours walking through the woods. Many birds were singing and calling, but most of them remained out of sight. Among the most notable birds we saw were a dozen or so Cedar Waxwings, two Yellow-rumped Warblers, an Eastern Towhee, and a couple Killdeers in the field to the south. We also heard Golden-crowned Kinglets, Pileated Woodpeckers, and a Hermit Thrush. On a farm pond about 200 yards to the south, we spotted some Gadwalls, along with Canada Geese and Mallards.

Montage 24 Feb 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: White-breasted Nuthatch, Cedar Waxwing, White-throated Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and in center, Killdeers and Canada Goose. (February 24, 2018)

More Short-eared Owls!

To the amazement and delight of local birders (and visitors), the Short-eared Owls that took up seasonal residence in the Bell's Lane area late in November have remained there throughout the winter. I took average-quality photos of them on January 16, February 14, as the skies were getting dark after dusk. But I finally lucked out on February 26, when the owls came out before the sun went down. Even though I couldn't get any [close-range] photos in the sunlight, I had some great photo ops when some of them obliged me by perching in the nearby dead tree before it got too dark. I saw as many as five owls at one point, and some birding folks visiting from upstate New York were quite thrilled. They didn't know which owl species it was until I told them. They were just randomly passing by Staunton, and couldn't have picked a better time and place!

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl, on Bell's Lane, February 26, 2018. As usual, several other photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

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