Birding in August
Even though I haven't done a blog post about birding since August 2, I have in fact been birding on a fairly regular basis over these past three and a half months. I've just been too busy with work (and baseball!) to take the time to write about it. So rather than try to make up for the entire lapsed period, I'll just do one month at a time and hopefully get caught up within the next week or so.
On the very first day of August, I visited the Shenandoah Wetlands in hopes of seeing or hearing Soras or Virginia Rails; no such luck, however. I did, however, see two American Goldfinches at a nest in the bushes, an indication of how late in the summer this species tends to breed. Back home, I used a small mirror to reflect the sunlight toward the feeder where a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird had been visiting, but the resulting photos was only partly satisfactory.
The next day I saw the usual birds at Bell's Lane and then on August 3 I drove out to Augusta Springs, where it was foggy at first. Eventually I came upon a small cluster of warblers (Worm-eating, Black & White, and American Redstart) in a wooded area, but it was hard to get good photos. The highlight came just as I was about to leave: I spotted a Great Egret foraging in the pond only 15-30 feet away! There were too many obstructing bushes to get a good look, however. On August 7 I drove out to Bell's Lane, where I saw a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at close range, and later visited Montgomery Hall Park, where I saw American Redstart; there were various juvenile birds at both locations. Two days later I saw Spotted as well as Solitary Sandpipers at Leonard's Pond.
Saturday August 10 was a landmark day of birding for me. After hearing reports of a Swallow-tailed Kite near Buena Vista, I drove down there in hopes of getting a high-quality photo. (I had seen that species once before, in Florida in March 2017.) There were already two cars parked when I got to the destination, a field adjacent to the Maury River. After a while one of the other birders beckoned us to where he had spotted the Swallow-tailed Kite perched in a tree. Yes! It was at least 50 yards away, but still close enough for a fairly good photo, and I was very satisfied. Later on we saw it circling around the sky, and I took many more photos. Then I headed back north, pausing in the town of Buena Vista to take pictures of some new places.
On August 14 I visited Mill Place trail as well as Bell's Lane, once again seeing juvenile birds of various kinds. On Saturday August 17, I went for a short hike along the Madison Run trail, where I saw an Acadian Flycatcher as well as some Red-eyed Vireos. There was also a Spotted Sandpiper at Leonard's Pond and a probable Willow Flycatcher at Bell's Lane; the latter was obscured by foliage. This was just as the fall semester was about to get underway, making it harder to go birding. On August 24 I went to Ramsey's Draft and saw a Common Yellowthroat at close range, as well as an Ovenbird. Over at Dowell's Draft, there was a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Black & White Warbler, but not much else. The next day Jacqueline and I went for a casual drive in the Shenandoah National Park, but there weren't many birds in evidence. On August 29, I paid a quick visit to Leonard's Pond, but there wasn't much other than a few Least Sandpipers. So I went to Bell's Lane, where I had an excellent view of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird and a so-so view of an American Redstart.
Finally, on the final day of August (the 31st), I headed up to Switzer Lake for the very first time. It is a renowned birding hot spot in Rockingham County near the West Virginia state line along Route 33. On the way there, I stopped at a farm pond just north of Mount Crawford, where I saw two Great Egrets. As soon as I arrived at Switzer Lake, I saw a local birder named William Leigh, and he provided me with lots of tips on exactly where to see birds. It was busy right from the start, with multiple warblers (especially Black-throated Green Warblers), Scarlet Tanagers, etc., etc. After a while we headed toward the lake itself, stopping at various places. Unfortunately, it soon got cloudy, which made it harder to see and identify the birds. We saw some Magnolia Warblers and a Blackburnian Warbler, as well as a few others.
As always, many more photos are on the Wild Birds yearly page.