Birding from October through December
In my continuing effort to get caught up on blogging about birding (and other subjects), here is a very brief summary of my outdoor nature activities last fall and the early part of last winter. I took advantage of a nice wooded trail at Blue Ridge Community College, and had a few good finds there. During October I led two Augusta Bird Club (ABC) field trips.
- Oct. 3: Blue Ridge Community College -- Common Yellowthroat (J M)
- Oct. 4: Bell's Lane -- Palm Warbler, Vesper Sparrow
- Oct. 5: Blue Ridge Pkwy (ABC) -- N. Parula, RC Kinglets, YB Sapsuckers
- Oct. 11: Augusta Springs -- Magnolia Warbler, Blk-thr. Green Warbler
- Oct. 18: Bell's Lane & Mill Place -- Palm Warbler
- Oct. 19: Bell's Lane: Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Harrier
- Oct. 26: Madison Run (ABC) & Leonard's Pond -- Long-billed Dowitcher (life bird!)
On October 5, a chilly day, bird club members (and one daughter) saw a wide variety of warblers on the Blue Ridge, but they were hard to see, especially as the skies turned gray. We thought the one in the middle was a Tennessee Warbler, but the yellow color suggests a possible Blue-winged Warbler. The Northern Parula was a nice surprise, and we had two early-arriving winter birds: Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.
October 11 was a gorgeous day at Augusta Springs, and I was astounded by the large number of Cedar Waxwings almost as soon as I arrived. At least 30, maybe 40. I spotted Black-throated Green Warblers and Magnolia Warblers foraging among the tree leaves, but didn't get any good photos. I had better luck, however, with a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a Blue-headed Vireo, and some Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The Augusta Bird Club had a field trip there the following day, and they spotted some of the same birds I did.
The October 26 field trip to Madison Run got off to a great start, with lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and a Yellow-throated Vireo, but then it quieted down, and we really didn't see much else. The real birding action came later on, at Leonard's Pond, when two of us saw a Long-billed Dowitcher, which was a life bird for me!
Birding in November
- Nov. 1: BRCC, Leonard's Pond, Bell's Lane -- YR Warblers, Wilson's Snipe, RC Kinglet
- Nov. 2: Mill Place -- Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron
- Nov. 10: Braley Pond -- Winter Wren, Fox Sparrow, GC Kinglets
- Nov. 11: Blue Ridge C.C. -- Yellow-rumped Warbler, Am. Goldfinches, House Finches
- Nov. 15: Mill Place & Bell's Lane (ABC) -- Wild Turkey, N. Harrier, Hooded Mergansers
- Nov. 23: Chimney Hollow (ABC) -- Winter Wrens, Red-breasted Nuthatches, GC Kinglets
- Nov. 27: Mill Place, Bell's Lane -- Horned Grebe, Hooded Mergansers
The first day of November I saw several Yellow-rumped Warblers around Blue Ridge Community College once again; they had been there all week. Then over at Leonard's Pond, there was a Wilson's Snipe and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet at close range. Finally, at Bell's Lane I had nice views of a Great Blue Heron and a White-throated Sparrow, only my second sighting of the season.
November 10 was a big day for me, as I went for a three-mile hike from Braley Pond upstream along the Johnson Run trail, and then looping back. It was the first time I had done that circuit hike. Early on I heard what I thought was a Brown Creeper singing, but it turned out to be a Winter Wren. I was utterly enthralled! At two different locations along the way I saw several Fox Sparrows, as well as some Golden-crowned Kinglets.
On Friday, November 15, I was one of five Augusta Bird Club members who went for a walk at Mill Place, where we saw a Swamp Sparrow and two Wild Turkeys. At the Hardee's pond where were four Hooded Mergansers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and others. Finally, at Bell's Lane we saw an adult male Northern Harrier!
Saturday, November 23rd was chilly and overcast, but to my surprise six club members and friends joined me on a vigorous and enjoyable hike along the Chimney Hollow trail. Highlights were multiple Winter Wrens, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Golden-crowned Kinglets. We also had brief glimpses of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Pileated Woodpecker. I only got one bird photo the whole day, however: a Golden-crowned Kinglet.
Birding in December
- Dec. 8: Bell's Lane -- Northern Harrier
- Dec. 14: Montgomery Hall Park & Betsy Bell Hill -- Merlin, Hermit Thrush, YB Sapsucker
- Dec. 28: Waynesboro -- Sharp-shinned Hawk (J)
- Dec. 30: Bell's Lane -- Northern Harrier
Teaching duties occupied most of my time in December, but I managed to find time to do the Christmas Bird Count on the 14th. I was joined by Peter Van Acker and Ann Cline, and almost as soon as we arrived at Montgomery Hall Park, we saw a Merlin perched in a tree! That's a quite uncommon kind of falcon, and coincidentally I had seen one at the same park a year earlier. Other highlights included Hermit Thrush, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
Later in the month I saw Northern Harriers several times along Bell's Lane, and on the 20th I saw some Short-eared Owls there as well. On the 28th I happened to see a young Sharp-shinned Hawk perched in a tree along a busy street in Waynesboro.