Life bird: White-winged Scoter!
Last week I saw my 410th life bird, a White-winged Scoter. Scoters are diving ducks with large bills. They breed in Canada and Alaska, and winter along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. About two weeks ago, the Wildlife Center of Virginia admitted two male White-winged Scoters that had become "stranded" on land, because they can only take off from water. (The harsh winter storms of January apparently threw them off their usual migration patterns.) That prompted local birders to look for more of this species, and before long, several had been located in this part of the Shenandoah Valley.
On January 31, after birding in the Harrisonburg area (see below), I went to a large pond inside an abandoned rock quarry in Fishersville. It didn't take long before I spotted the female White-winged Scoter, part of a mixed flock of Canada Geese, Coots, Redheads, and other waterfowl nearly 200 yards away. I was lucky that the female White-winged Scoter started swimming in my direction, enabling me to get a decent photo of it.
On Wednesday I went to the pond near the Eagle's Nest airport in Waynesboro, where a male White-winged Scoter had been reported by Mary Vermeulen and Allen Larner. Fortunately, the sun had pierced through the morning fog, so I was able to get several good photos of that rare bird. It was only about 50 yards away, I estimated. As an added bonus, I also saw and photographed a Greater Scaup and a Bufflehead (a small black-and-white duck), both males. That was a very lucky day!
Other recent birds
In other news, I made two more attempts to find the Snowy Owls, on January 15 and 31, but without success either time. (Other people have seen one of those owls this month, however, and the News Leader had a front-page article about that.) Both times, I went to nearby Silver Lake and saw pretty much the same ducks there as before, and got a few good pictures. On the latter date, I saw Fenton Day (a prominent Virginia birder) at Silver Lake, and he gave me some tips on how to get to the quarry pond in Fishersville, where the White-winged Scoter was.
These photos, and several more, can be seen on the Wild birds yearly photo gallery page.