New raptors in Highland County
Encouraged by forecasts of clear, balmy weather for today, I joined the friendly folks of the Augusta Bird Club for a field trip to Highland County this morning, led by John Spahr. I was rewarded for my efforts with two life birds, bringing my total up to 366! On the West Virginia line near the town of Blue Grass we saw three juvenile Golden eagles swooping around a mountain slope a half mile away. I was surprised to learn that the juveniles have prominent white patches under each wing and in their tails. A few miles to the west, we saw an adult of that same species. Because of strong, brisk winds (contrary to the forecasts!), it was hard to hold our binoculars steady, so it was hard to keep the eagles in sight. South of the hamlet of Hightown (near the very source of the South Branch of the Potomac River!), later on, we saw a dark phase Rough-legged hawk. Then we had a nice hot lunch in the picturesque town of Monterey, and some of us headed home from there. Time well spent, in good company! The relative absence of sparrows and other small songbirds was a bit surprising. Today's highlights:
- Bald eagles -- 3+
- Red-tailed hawks
- Golden eagles -- 3 juv., 1 adult (LIFE BIRD!)
- Rough-legged hawk (LIFE BIRD!)
- Goldfinches (some turning yellow)
- Black-capped chickadees
I have seen Bald eagles more and more frequently in recent years, so it was not surprising that they will soon be taken off the list of endangered species. What an inspiring comeback for our National Symbol! See Washington Post.
Another bit of good bird conservation news from across the Atlantic: the stork population has rebounded, thanks to efforts by Germany and other countries to reclaim river bottomlands, where storks nest. I was surprised to learn that storks breed in Spain and most of Central and Eastern Europe, whereas in the United States they are seldom found outside of Florida or southern Georgia. See the Post.