Birding in November
I managed to get out to do some birding a few times in November, trying to keep abreast of the newly-arrived winter migrants. On the first day of the month (a Wednesday), I drove out to the Swoope area in hopes of seeing either the Northern Harriers or Short-eared Owls that had been reported there. (I had seen seven Harriers during a field trip in early October.) I did indeed spot three different Northern Harriers in Swoope, but not until I returned home and looked at my photos did I realize that one of them was a male "Gray Ghost." It's the first such photo I have taken. Later in the day, I spotted a Dark-eyed Junco out back, the first one of the season for me.
Ducks abound at Silver Lake
On November 10, I drove up to Dayton, hoping to see some of the ducks that had recently arrived at Silver Lake. Sure enough, I spotted a nice variety as soon as I parked there. It was a sunny day, and lighting conditions were very good for taking photos. Something strange happened while I was driving through Dayton: a strange-looking medium-large bird flew over my car by the poultry processing plant, but not until it landed in a nearby spruce tree was I able to identify it for sure: a Black-crowned Night Heron!
Field trip to Bell's Lane
On November 16 (a Thursday), I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Bell's Lane, with Dan Perkuchin, Peter Van Acker, Joe Thompson, and Ann Cline in attendance, later joined by Allen Larner and Stan Heatwole. It was a beautiful day, with clear skies and gradually warming temperatures. On the farm pond by the south end we saw several Ruddy Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, American Coots, and Pied-billed Grebes. From there we walked for about a mile, and had some nice views of Red-tailed Hawks along the way. We stopped at the high point of Bell's Lane (by Carolyn Ford's gate), and from there "we" (by which I mean Allen) saw Greater Yellowlegs, Dunlins, Green-winged Teals, Hooded Mergansers, Gadwalls, and Northern Shovelers on a distant pond. I spotted a Northern Harrier in the distance. Other highlights of the day included Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Flickers, Eastern Bluebirds, Robins, and Golden-crowned Kinglets. There were no Yellow-rumped Warblers, to my surprise. In the eBird report I submitted, there were 32 species total.
This past Saturday (November 25), I was trying to decide whether to venture out in search of birds, but as it turned out, I didn't have to. To my great surprise, some Eastern Bluebirds were hunting for food in the trees out back, and I was able to get a nice photo. Even better, I saw (and photographed) a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker not far away! I also got a nice photo of a particular White-throated Sparrow with an anomolous white wing feather that has been out back off and on recently. It is almost certainly the very same one that has visited us each winter going back two years!
Birding in and near Lexington
On Sunday, Jacqueline and I went on a day trip to Lexington, about 40 miles south of Staunton. Because of the heavy holiday traffic on I-81, we took Route 11 for almost the entire way in both directions. While approaching Steele's Tavern (east of Raphine), I spotted a hawk on a telephone wire, so I pulled over and was fortunate to get a very good photo of a Red-shouldered Hawk! We don't see that species very often, and that was a stroke of luck. We stopped briefly at McCormick's Mill, but there wasn't anything on the front pond, so we continued to Willow Lake, about a mile southwest. There we saw about a dozen Ruddy Ducks and perhaps six Ring-necked Ducks, plus the usual Canada Geese. Late in the afternoon, I photographed a Rock Pigeon in the parking lot of Devil's Backbone Brewery.
NOTE: The photo montages seen above, along with individual bird photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.