Birding in early-to-mid October
Well, another month is quickly speeding toward a conclusion, and it's about time I wrote a few lines about my birding ventures since the beginning of October. On October 3 I went to Betsy Bell Hill, and saw for the first time some new trail signs and a map kiosk that the city Parks and Recreation Department has put up. That's very nice, and I'm glad they are devoting resources to that often-overlooked bit of natural heritage inside the city limits. I didn't see any warblers, to my surprise and disappointment, but I did get a good view of a Wood Thrush and a so-so view of a female Scarlet Tanager. Two Pileated Woodpeckers landed on a nearby log to look for food, but my camera just couldn't focus on them for some reason, and I wasted a great photo opportunity. Then I paid a quick visit to Bell's Lane and caught a glimpse of a Green Heron only about 25 feet away, in a small stream behind some bushes. This time I was luckier with the focusing and quickly snapped a (semi-obstructed) photo of the bird, in perfect sunlight.
On October 5 I went birding in Waynesboro for the first time in a few weeks, partly out of curiousity over whether they had been getting more migrants than us folks in Staunton are. I had some nice views in various spots along the South River, but nothing spectacular. The highlights were a Scarlet Tanager (F) in North Park (not photographed), Cedar Waxwings in various places, and a Magnolia Warbler and a Swainson's Thrush in Ridgeview Park. The Broad-winged Hawk was here in Staunton, or above it.
Maury River canoe trip
As described in a separate blog post, on October 6 I went along on a canoe trip along the Maury River, the first such outing under the auspices of the Augusta Bird Club. It was organized by Stan Heatwole, and two other members attended: Ann Cline and Caroline Ford. Almost as soon as we started, Stan sighted a Bald Eagle downstream, and I just caught a glimpse of it as it was flying away. For the most part, however, there weren't that many birds to be seen that day, and it proved very difficult for me to photograph the ones we did see from a canoe in motion. Aside from the birds in the photo below, we also saw Cedar Waxwings, Belted Kingfishers, Wood Ducks, a Raven, and a few others.
Back to normal birding
The very next day, October 7, I drove around the Swoope in the afternoon, scouting in advance of the field trip there next Saturday. (To my dismay, I learned that Livick Road was closed because of damage to a small bridge after a recent flood.) I found Indigo Buntings and Palm Warblers in multiple locations, and a variety of sparrows all around. I expected to see Savannah Sparrows, but the Vesper Sparrow was a nice surprise. Finally, I saw a Belted Kingfisher at the Boy Scout Camp lake, along with a Great Blue Heron.
Early on October 9, I glimpsed some kind of warbler out back, and was lucky to get a fairly good photo of what turned out to be a female Cape May Warbler. There was also a hawk flying high overhead, and from the pale spots near the end of each wing, there's no doubt that it was a Red-shouldered Hawk. Later I paid a quick visit to Bell's Lane, and saw both kinds of herons (Green and Great Blue), and a few other birds.
October 10 was an unusually good morning at Montgomery Hall Park. I was hoping to see some early White-throated Sparrows, but none were present. In any event, I was more than satisfied by what I did see. Several Eastern Bluebirds were at the park entrance, and an Eastern Wood Pewee, Black & White Warbler, Tennessee Warbler were in a wooded area uphill from the Christmas tree dumping area. Later on I had excellent looks at Cedar Waxwings, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and at the top of the hill, a Merlin! There were also lots of American Robins, Northern Flickers, and other woodpeckers. I even heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch.
Finally, on October 13 I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Swoope and Augusta Springs, and it was a big success. Nine people attended, including some new members, and lots of interesting birds were found all over the place. Allen Larner usually leads that trip every fall, but he wasn't sure if he'd be available, so when he showed up that morning, I gladly acceded to his leadership role. We saw a mixed flock of Grasshopper Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows along Livick Road (where a washed-out bridge was repaired just in time for us), as well as three Northern Harriers (two adult males) and a Cooper's Hawk! There was nothing at Smith's Pond, so we went straight to Augusta Springs, where we saw Pine Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches (as well as the common White-breasted ones), Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Eastern Towhees, and a Hermit Thrush! Some of us then went back to Swoope, and at or near the Boy Scout camp we saw Palm Warblers, a Swamp Sparrow, a Magnolia Warbler, some Eastern Phoebes, and a probable Eastern Wood Pewee. It was a wonderful trip indeed.
I have made a few bird trips since then, but I'll wait until the end of the month to report on them. Other recent photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.