Springtime for birders!
My overall impression is that most migratory birds have been arriving a little behind schedule this spring, but others may have had different observations. On March 23 to Bell's Lane I was pleased to see the Loggerhead Shrike on Bell's Lane for the first time since February 6 (see March 18), on the very same line of fence posts, in fact. Three days later I went back in hopes of seeing again (twice, in fact), but no luck. I did, however, see a Vesper Sparrow, another pleasant surprise. I had seen them there twice last fall, likewise a rather unusual sighting. Tree Swallows were flying around, the first time I had seen them this year.
Augusta Springs field trip
On Saturday March 30 I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Augusta Springs, in the western part of Augusta County. To my surprise, the turnout was quite large, with at least a dozen people in attendance. Soon after we began, I heard a strange whistling song that reminded me of a Killdeer, but I had no idea what it was. Then I spotted the singing bird at the top of a small tree, and was astonished to realize that it was a Rusty Blackbird! I had seen a flock of those along the Middle River on last November, when it had the "rusty" non-breeding plumage, and this was the first time I had a clear view of one in breeding plumage. Then I heard a Louisiana Waterthrush singing, so we reversed course along the boardwalk trail, going counter-clockwise in pursuit of it, but without success. We did, however, have a nice view of some Yellow-rumped Warblers. (I hardly saw any of those during the past winter.) Other highlights of the morning included Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Wood Ducks, Pine Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch (heard only), and a Sharp-shinned Hawk. On the way back to Staunton somd of us stopped at the Falls Hollow trail head, east of Elliott Knob. We didn't see any birds there, so we continued to Swoope, where we saw the new Bald Eagle nest, about a mile southwest of the one in the tree that was blown down in a storm last November. All in all, it was a wonderful day of birding!
Birding in April
I didn't get out much during the first week of this month, but I did get a nice closeup view of a male Pine Warbler in the Big Levels area on April 6. Five days later (on April 11) I went to Bell's Lane, where I had nice views of several birds, including Goldfinches in breeding plumage. Then I went to Mill Place in Verona and saw two Savannah Sparrows close by.
On Saturday April 13 (Earth Day!) I went to Montgomery Hall Park, but didn't see much other than an Eastern Towhee until just before I was going to leave then I spotted a flycatcher of some kind in nearby tree tops, and soon determined that it was an Eastern Kingbird, my first one of the year. Later that day on Bell's Lane, I had two other first-of-year birds: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Brown Thrasher.
Finally I took advantage of the nice weather on April 17 by visiting Bell's Lane again, but didn't see any of the hoped-for warblers. I did have nice views of several other birds, however, including several recently-arrived migrants:
As usual, more photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page. In about five minutes, I'm going to lead a field trip to Dowell's Draft, in western Augusta County!