October 24, 2010 [LINK / comment]
Another field trip to Chimney Hollow
Last Saturday, I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip for the first time since last April. As with all of my past field trips for the club, we hiked along the Chimney Hollow trail, on Route 250 in western Augusta County. We observed a total of 26 species altogether, including five that were the first of the season for me. I was especially pleased to spot a Red-breasted Nuthatch, which was one of the main target birds for this trip. The other three members -- Grant Simmons, Jo King, and Tish Folsom -- heard it but didn't see it. Later on we all had great looks at some Winter Wrens and Hermit Thrushes, both of which are elusive migratory birds that are only present in the lowland areas of Virginia during the cooler months. Afterwards, we stopped at the store in nearby West Augusta, where we saw 21 Wild Turkeys across the field, and then paid a brief visit to nearby Braley Pond, where we saw an American Coot. Here are the highlights of what I saw, in rough chronological order:
- Golden-crowned Kinglets
- Ruby-crowned Kinglets
- Carolina Chickadees
- Blue Jays (very noisy)
- Pileated Woodpeckers
- Blue headed Vireo
- Red-breasted Nuthatch (FOS)
- Winter Wrens (FOS)
- Hermit Thrushes (FOS)
- Red-shouldered Hawk
- Eastern Phoebe
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- Hairy Woodpeckers
- Dark-eyed Junco (FOS)
- Wild Turkeys (21) at West Augusta
- American Coot at Braley Pond (FOS)
- Red-tailed Hawk
In addition, others saw a Pine Warbler and a Blackpoll Warbler, but not me.
ABC bird seed sale
On Saturday I was at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona, helping out with the Augusta Bird Club's annual bird seed sale. (Nearby, Congressman Bob Goodlatte was hosting a Republican barbecue, but I was already committed and couldn't be in two places at once.) Lifting all those big bags was great excercise, which I really need. The sale was very successful, in spite of the poor economic conditions. Crista Cabe set up a Google page to make it possible to directly place orders and make payments online; that was a huge success.
Other recent bird forays
In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the National Park Service hosted some nature walks on September 18 and 19, with Allen Larner serving as nature guide. I joined him on the 19th (Sunday), and we lucked out by spotting a large number of warblers and other neotropical migrants. I made brief birding trips to the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple other times, and likewise had better luck than usual.
Compared to last fall, I have put in a great deal more time at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch, which is being coordinated by Brenda Tekin, as usual, as well as Vic Laubach. A couple days they had several thousand Broad-winged hawks, but the most I saw on any one day was about 150-200 Broad-wings.
In late September, I walked along the trail behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad for the first time in several months. It was quiet until I was near the end, at which point a variety of warblers and vireos popped into view.
Last Wednesday, late in the afternoon, I made a brief visit to Bell's Lane, and found some pleasant surprises. There were several White-crowned sparrows, along with the expected White-throated sparrows, plus Bluebirds, a dozen or so Meadowlarks far away, a Downy Woodpecker, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, at least two Palm Warblers, and best of all, my first Brown creeper of the season! From the high point, I could see several shorebirds at the distant pond, along with Canada geese, but no Harriers or other raptors were present.
I will be updating the Annual arrival page, incorporating this information, in the near future.
Last Tuesday I stopped at the Ruritan park on Route 151 in Nelson County, and was lucky to spot my first White-crowned sparrow of the season. It was a juvenile, with brownish feathers on his head.
ABC Web site upgrade
One reason for my scant blog posts of late is that I have been spending a lot of time upgrading the Augusta Bird Club Web site, in terms of style, content, and functionality. It now allows members to make announcements of "impromptu" field trips, i.e., ones that are organized too late for the current newsletter. Club member Jo King was the first to make use of this new feature, but alas, I wasn't able to participate on her trip to Springdale Water Gardens. There is also a new automated calendar feature that I may incorporate on this Web site eventually.
Kiptopeke Challenge 2010
Congratulations to Allen Larner and the three other members of the Augusta Bird Club's "Bald Eagles" team, who took first prize at this year's Kiptopeke Challenge, spotting 125 species. Allen's avid passion in birding and his keen senses put him a league of his own, birding-wise.