March 25, 2009 [LINK / comment]
"Jackpot" at McCormick's Mill
I made an impromptu visit to McCormick's Mill yesterday, and was soon rewarded with some amazing sightings, including three first-of-season (FOS) birds and a LIFE BIRD for me: Rusty Blackbird -- several of them, in fact, both males and females. There is a slight chance that they could have been Brewer's Blackbirds, however. Either way, it's my third life bird of the year, and my life bird list now totals 383 species.
Here is a list of yesterday's highlights, followed by species notes:
- Red-bellied Woodpecker (M)
- Tree Swallow
- Yellow-rumped Warblers *
- Eastern Towhee (M)
- Northern Rough-winged Swallow (FOS)
- Louisiana Waterthrush ** (FOS)
- Rusty Blackbirds *** (LIFE BIRD)
- Wilson's Snipe (FOS)
- Bald Eagles **** (2 imm.)
- Eastern Phoebe
- Great Blue Heron
- Eastern Bluebird (M)
* One of the "Yellow-rumped" Warblers actually had a white rump, not yellow! That's called "leucistic," the lack of feather pigmentation.
** The Louisiana Waterthrush was very yellow underneath, suggestive of Northern Waterthrush, but they don't migrate this early, so that's unlikely. Previously, the earliest-ever sighting of a Louisiana Waterthrush in the Augusta County area was March 30, 1979, so this sets a new record. The earliest Northern Waterthrush was Apr. 27, 1981. I am told by Jo King that this was the first-ever record of a Louisiana Waterthrush at McCormick's Mill!
*** The Rusty Blackbirds were foraging in the mud flats, near the Wildon's snipe. The males' bluish iridiscent heads were suggestive of a Brewer's Blackbird, a Western species that is very rare in this area.
**** The young Bald Eagles were practicing courtships ritual in air, clutching each others' claws, etc. Kind of like a "sock hop," I guess.
Other recent sightings
Along the Blue Ridge Parkway southeast of Buena Vista last Thursday (March 19), I saw my first Pine warblers of the season, about six I would say. A Pileated woodpecker was at the same location, flying away and making a big racket. Earlier in the day, I saw a group of Wild turkeys near the Peaks of Otter. I had seen another group of Wild turkeys just west of the town of Buchanan a few weeks before that. On both occasions, all of them were hens, no "toms."
While walking along Bell's Lane on Monday evening, we saw several Cedar waxwings. Out back, finally, the Pine siskins are still visiting our feeders on a daily basis.
I have updated the Annual arrival page.
Falling bird populations
The Cornell University Lab of Ornithology recently issued its periodic "State of the Birds" report, noting that certain heretofore common species such as the Western Meadowlark are in danger of serious population loss. Why? Like most bird species, it has specific habitat requirements, and the open grasslands that it needs are being plowed under or used for livestock grazing. See CNN.com.