Andrew Clem blog home


A diary of birds I've observed, spiced up with photos and occasional commentary. Clockwise from top left: Burrowing Owl, Red-breasted Merganser, Yellow-breasted Chat, Purple Gallinule, Summer Tanager, Gray Hawk, Virginia Rail, and (in center) Magnolia Warbler.

Wild bird montage shadow
Special archives:

Bird photos

Captions identifying the birds in these photo montages are found on the Wild Birds intro page.

Birding Web sites:

Reciprocal links:


Conservation links


December 14, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Late fall / early winter birding

Technically, winter doesn't begin until next week, but with a major ice storm, a minor snow fall, and heavy snow storm behind us already, winter essentially arrived one month ago. Freezing rain all day on November 15 resulted in thousands of downed tree branches across this area, and we lost power just before 9:00 that evening. Not until 3:30 the next day did our power (and heat) come back on line: 18 1/2 hours without electricity! It was miserable, as the temperature inside dropped to 60 degrees, but other folks I know suffered for days, and in some cases with major property damage. Anyway, I was fortunate to see and photograph three rare or uncommon bird species over the past month.

On Saturday November 17 I was scheduled to lead an Augusta Bird Club field trip to the new trail at the Mill Place industrial park in Verona, just north of Staunton. But those plans were set aside by the sudden passing away of a dear friend in the club, Ed Lawler. A memorial service for Ed was held later that same morning, so I decided to just make a brief, perfunctory visit to Mill Place in Ed's memory, just in case some people didn't get the news about Ed, to allow for enough time to get to the service. I was not at all surprised that no one else came. But as it turned out, the birding was excellent that morning, highlighted by two birds that only rarely come to visit the Staunton-Augusta area: a Fox Sparrow and a Hermit Thrush.

Montage 17 Nov 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Fox Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Hermit Thrush, American Goldfinch, Killdeer, E. Meadowlark, and in center, Field Sparrow and American Robin, at Mill Place on November 17.
Roll your mouse over the image to see the Fox Sparrow.

Two days later, November 19, I went along on an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Bell's Lane led by Penny Warren. Others had a good view of some Ring-necked Ducks on a farm pond, but I only had a glimpse of them flying away. The big highlight of the morning was not a bird, however, but a River Otter in the beaver pond near the north end of Bell's Lane. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a photo before it swam away.

Montage 19 Nov 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-bellied Woodpecker, Cedar Waxwing, Downy Woodpecker (M), Pied-billed Grebe, American Robin, and American Coot. (November 19)

A day later I was surprised to see a female Pileated Woodpecker in a tree out back. They usually avoid populated areas. Also that day I learned about a flock of Rusty Blackbirds via an e-mail alert from Marshall Faintich, a renowned bird photographer from the Afton/Crozet area. He described the location very accurately, the Cline River Road bridge over the Middle River a mile or so south of the Weyer's Cave airport, so I went there on Wednesday, November 21. It took just a few minutes before I spotted some blackbirds, and I was lucky to see and photograph one in a nearby tree. Bingo! It was the first time I have ever taken a good photo of that species, and that was very gratifying. On the way back into Staunton I stopped at the Bell's Lane beaver pond, and saw a few interesting birds.

Of note is the probable Carolina Chickadee which looks a bit like a Black-capped Chickadee based on the blurry lower edge of the black "bib." Baxter Beamer, a young birder from Albemarle County who gave a presentation to the bird club in October, noticed that feature and opined that it could be a Black-capped Chickadee or a hybrid of the two species. If so, it would be unusual, since the border between the ranges of those respective species is fairly well define, coinciding roughly with Shenandoah Mountain, a high ridge about 15-20 miles west of Staunton.

Montage 21 Nov 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Rusty Blackbird: M, American Kestrel, Carolina Chickadee, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Song Sparrow. (November 21)
Roll your mouse over the image to see the Rusty Blackbird.

I didn't do any real birding for the rest of that month, but on the first day of December I spotted a Brown Creeper on a tree out back. The photo I took was mediocre, unfortunately. Two days later I got lucky when a Flicker showed up at our suet feeder:

Northern Flicker (male), on December 3.

On December 5, following a minor snow storm, Penny Warren spotted some swans on one of the Bell's Lane farm ponds, and invited me to try to take some photos to identify the species: Tundra or Trumpeter? Unfortunately, they were gone by the time I got there, but we did at least see some nice ducks and a young Pied-billed Grebe. The big news of the day for me was a Gray Catbird spotted by Jacqueline outside our apartment. I think the last time I saw that species in a winter month was December 2005; it remained for at least a couple months thereafter.

Montage 05 Dec 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Redhead, Gray Catbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-crowned Sparrow, Pied-billed Grebe (juv.), Ring-necked Duck, and in center, White-breasted Nuthatch. (December 6)
Roll your mouse over the image to see the Gray Catbird a bit larger.

Field trip to Mill Place

Last Saturday, December 8, I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to the new trail at the Mill Place industrial park in Verona, just north of Staunton. Given the freezing temperatures, I was pleasantly surprised that five other members showed up. It is a very scenic nature spot that seems to have been developed with great care in planning, featuring a sheltered picnic area, multiple benches for resting along the way, and a wooden foot bridge. It is all asphalt. Even better, it is an excellent habitat for a variety of sparrows and other songbirds. Highlights of the day were a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Hermit Thrush, and a Swamp Sparrow. In the reeds, two members spotted a very small brown bird that was most likely a Marsh Wren or a Winter Wren, and some of us saw what was either a Yellow-rumped or a Palm Warbler. I counted a total of 21 species, pending confirmation from others who were there.

Montage 086 Dec 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-shouldered Hawk, American Goldfinch, Hermit Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco, and White-crowned Sparrows (adult and juvenile). (December 8, 2018)
Roll your mouse over the image to see the Hermit Thrush enlarged.

On Sunday December 9 we had a major snow storm, measuring 8-10 inches in Staunton, far more than the 1-2 inches that were forecast. I haven't done much birding this week, but I am pleased to report that (as of yesterday) the Rufous Hummingbird in Stuart's Draft (see November 10) has survived the brutal wintry onslaught! As always, other photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

November 10, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Rare birds make big appearances!

Two different species of birds that only rarely come to visit the Staunton-Augusta area have done so this month already: three Cattle Egrets and one Rufous Hummingbird. Both are migratory and breed elsewhere, but a few strays occasionally spend time here in the late Autumn, usually before heading south to warmer climates. It was reported on November 1 that two Cattle Egrets had been spotted at a farm on Bell's Lane, but I didn't see them on my visit there on that day. I was luckier the next day, but they were too far away (about 600 yards) and the lighting conditions were poor.

But on Saturday November 3 I did get a slightly better view of them in the sun from a range of about 300 yards. That was after I had already spotted (and photographed) my first Dark-eyed Junco of the season, along with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet -- both in our back yard. (I could tell from the mostly-concealed red feathers on top of its head that it was a male Ruby-crowned Kinglet.) But that wasn't all! While I was observing the Cattle Egrets on Bell's Lane, I saw a bird in a tree and from the photos I took, I realized it was a Vesper Sparrow! Penny Warren had seen one in that area a few days earlier, so it may have been the same bird.

Montage 03 Nov 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Vesper Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Cattle Egret. (November 3, 2018)
Roll your mouse over the image to see the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and click on it to see more views of the Cattle Egrets.

The next day, November 4, there were three Cattle Egrets on Bell's Lane, and the day after that there was just one. Since then, three Cattle Egrets were spotted several miles away in Augusta County, so they seem to have relocated.

On Wednesday, November 7, I joined Jo King and four other bird club members on a field trip to McCormick's Farm. The weather was cool but very pleasant, and we saw various woodpeckers, a Great Blue Heron, two Gadwalls (plain-looking ducks), a Northern Harrier, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. At the very end of the trip, I spotted a well-camouflaged Brown Creeper on the side of a cedar tree, the first one of the season for all of us, I believe. On my way out, I saw an adult Cooper's Hawk at the top of a dead tree.

Montage 07 Nov 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Harrier (F/J), Brown Creeper, Cooper's Hawk, Great Blue Heron, Hairy Woodpecker (M), Gadwall (M), Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and near center, Red-bellied Woodpecker. (November 7, 2018)

A few days ago, a bird club member named Bonnie Hughes reported that a Rufous Hummingbird had been visiting the balcony in back of her house, where she keeps a nectar feeder. (We do too, just in case, even though we haven't had any hummingbirds since the last one left on October 3 or so.) So, I drove out to her house near Stuarts Draft this morning, and lo and behold the bird in question showed up within just a few minutes! Luckily, it perched for a few minutes in bright sunlight, and I was able to get a few good photos from about 15 feet away through the slats of a venetian blind covering the back window. In all the photos, there is a solid yellow background, which is the blurred yellow leaves of a tree about 100 feet away in the next yard. I was dumbfounded and delighted to see this amazing specimen so close. In the front yard there were several female Purple Finches at a feeder, the first ones I have seen this season.

Rufous Hummingbirds breed in the northwestern U.S.A. and Canada, but every year some of them migrate to the eastern states before heading south for the winter. A few of them attempt to stay for the whole winter, but they often die from freezing temperatures. The last time I saw one was west of Harrisonburg about a dozen [eight*] years ago. I saw a Calliope Hummingbird (another species that breeds in the west and sometimes takes a "detour" during fall migration) west of Lynchburg about ten years ago, in January 2009!

On the way back home, I stopped at Bell's Lane and saw various sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a Palm Warbler or two.

Montage 10 Nov 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Song Sparrow, Rufous Hummingbird (M), White-throated Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Palm Warbler, and Purple Finch (F). (November 10, 2018)
Roll your mouse over the image to see the Rufous Hummingbird.

Several other photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

* Corrected after being reminded by Facebook of the actual previous date: November 13, 2010; serendipity! That was my first-ever sighting of a Rufous Hummingbird.

November 7, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Birding in the latter part of October

Well, we have already finished the first week of November and I haven't even written up my birding experiences during the latter part of the last month. (My last post was on October 25.) So, here is yet another "catch-up" blog post. On October 17 I joined Jo King and several other Augusta Bird Club members on a field trip to McCormick's Mill, on the south edge of Augusta County. It was a wonderful morning, with four warbler species (all in the photographic montage below), plus Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and many others. There were no hawks, however, nor any White-throated Sparrows, which are late this year.

Montage 17 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Great Blue Heron, and Cape May Warbler. (At McCormick's Farm, October 17)

Late in the afternoon of October 20 at the Bell's Lane beaver pond, I saw what was probably the same Greater Yellowlegs that had been seen earlier, along with several Northern Mockingbirds, a few Killdeers, a couple Field Sparrows, a Belted Kingfisher, and one of the newly-arrived White-throated Sparrows.

I had to go to Harrisonburg on October 22, and on the way back I stopped at Silver Lake in Dayton, where I had nice, sunlit views of a Mute Swan, an American Coot, and two Ring-necked Ducks. At the Bell's Lane beaver pond, on my way back into Staunton, I saw and photographed what I am almost certain was a Wilson's Snipe, hiding in the grass.

Montage 22 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Ring-necked Ducks (F), American Coot, Mallard (M), Mute Swan, and Wilson's Snipe. (Silver Lake, October 22, 2018)

On the morning of October 23 I saw what I thought was another Golden-crowned Kinglet out back, and was astonished to realize that it was actually a Blue-headed Vireo! It just barely eluded being "captured" by my camera, unfortunately. On Bell's Lane late that afternoon I saw a Northern Harrier, and perhaps two of them. I couldn't get a good photo from that distance, unfortunately. There were also lots of American Robins (acting very nervously, as they do this time of year), as well as Carolina Chickadees, Killdeers, and a Hairy Woodpecker. The White-breasted Nuthatch was in our neighborhood; you don't see them perched on a wire very often!

On October 29 Penny Warren led another field trip to Bell's Lane; I had missed the previous one, and arrived about a half hour late for this one. It was well-attended, and there were plenty of birds to see along the way. Among the highlights this time were an American Kestrel, two Northern Harriers (adult male and F/J), a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and three Wilson's Snipes in the grass by the beaver pond. Penny and I saw a group of probable White-crowned Sparrows along the road.

Montage 29 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier (M), Belted Kingfisher, Wilson's Snipe, Cedar Waxwing, Wood Duck (M), Northern Harrier (F/J), and in right-center, Killdeer. (October 29, 2018)

On October 30, Jacqueline and I took a drive through the countryside, stopping for a few minutes on Bell's Lane (where I saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler) and then heading to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We caught a few glimpses of birds, but it was pretty quiet in spite of the mild weather. The only photograph I got was of a Golden-crowned Kinglet. The other birds in the montage below were around our apartment building.

Montage 30 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Downy Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Mourning Dove, and Blue Jay. (October 30, 2018)

On October 31 (Halloween!) I saw a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a White-breasted Nuthatch. out back. In the afternoon on Bell's Lane I searched in vain for White-crowned Sparrows, but I did get slightly better views of a Northern Harrier, a Belted Kingfisher, and a Wilson's Snipe. That wrapped up a quite busy month of birding, with several consecutive days at it.

Montage 31 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Harrier (F/J), Wilson's Snipe, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and near center, Killdeer. (October 31, 2018)

Several other photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

October 25, 2018 [LINK / comment]

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.

Montage 03 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Scarlet Tanager (F), Red-bellied Woodpecker (F), Wood Thrush, Pileated Woodpeckers, and Green Heron (J). (October 3, 2018)

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.

Montage 05 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Swainson's Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, Cedar Waxwing, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker (F), and Magnolia Warbler. (October 5, 2018)

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.

Montage 06 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Mallards, Great Blue Heron, Eastern Phoebe, and Canada Geese. (October 6, 2018)

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.

Montage 07 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Vesper Sparrow, Indigo Bunting (F/J), Red-bellied Woodpecker (F), Palm Warbler, Belted Kingfisher, and Savannah Sparrow. (October 7, 2018)

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.

Montage 09 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Cape May Warbler, Red-shouldered Hawk, Killdeer, Wood Duck (M), Green Heron (J), and in center, Belted Kingfisher. (October 9, 2018)

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.

Montage 10 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Merlin, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Bluebird (M), Cedar Waxwings (J), Black & White Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, and Tennessee Warbler. (October 10, 2018)

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.

Montage 13 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Phoebe, Cooper's Hawk (J), Pine Warbler, Grasshopper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Magnolia Warbler, and in center, Cedar Waxwing. (October 13, 2018)

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.

October 2, 2018 [LINK / comment]

The peak of fall migration season

The weather has improved somewhat over the past week, just as fall migration season has reached a peak, possibly delayed, as many southbound birds probably waited for the rain to stop. I have tried to take maximum advantage of better conditions, despite a lingering sore heel. Late in the morning on September 26, I checked out Bell's Lane, but aside from the usual birds, all I saw was three Solitary Sandpipers, one of which walked right next to a turtle. Photo op! When I went to on Betsy Bell Hill, however, I saw an American Redstart and a Magnolia Warbler, as well as a Red-eyed Vireo. It was hard to get good photos, or even any photos at all. In our back yard, the Cape May Warbler returned, and along Mountain View Road (by the trail behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad that I used to frequent several years ago) I saw some Yellow-throated Vireos and a Black-throated Green Warbler, and both cooperated while I captured their photographic images, just before yet another rainfall later in the day.

Montage 26 Sep 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Black-throated Green Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, and Cape May Warbler. (September 26, 2018).

After a heavy rain on Thursday night, the sun came out in the morning of September 28, and the Cape May Warbler was still out back as well as a young Northern Cardinal. I was constrained by the obligation of finishing the Augusta Bird Club bulletin, however, and that was completed in the mid-afternoon. So I then paid a quick visit to Bell's Lane in the late afternoon. Before long I had seen a Black-throated Blue Warbler (F) and a Black & White Warbler, as well as a probable Eastern Wood Pewee. In the upland area I saw what I thought was a hawk fly past me, but soon realized it was actually an adult male "gray ghost" Northern Harrier! Further to the north I also saw a Northern Flicker and a Magnolia Warbler, both hiding in the bushes, and I duly noted those sightings on the Augusta Bird Club chalkboard. The lowland portion of Bell's Lane was a real mess that day (and still is), full of debris caused by an evident flood.

Montage 28 Sep 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Eastern Wood Pewee, Black & White Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler (F), Cape May Warbler, juvenile Northern Cardinal, Northern Flicker (F), Magnolia Warbler, and in center, Northern Harrier (M). (September 28, 2018).

The weather on Saturday was ideal, but I was inside on the computer for most of the day. I went back to Bell's Lane in the afternoon, and soon saw my first Palm Warbler of the season. (Somebody had written on the chalkboard that they saw one there a few days ago.) In the vicinity of the beaver pond, there were also the usual Eastern Phoebes, Killdeers, and Solitary Sandpiper, plus a Kingfisher, Redstart, another Palm Warbler, and a probable Tennessee Warbler near the top of a sycamore tree.

Montage 29 Sep 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Eastern Phoebe, Palm Warbler, Solitary Sandpiper, Killdeer, and Tennessee Warbler (prob.). (September 29, 2018).

On Sunday I went up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in spite of the cloudy conditions. It was the first time I'd been there in a few weeks, but hardly any birds were to be seen at the usual hot spots such as the Humpback Rocks visitor center and picnic area. So I went to the Hawk Watch on Afton Mountain, the first time I had been there in ove a year, I believe. Just as I had hoped, the sun finally came out soon after I arrived, enabling me to get a decent photos of a low-flying Turkey Vulture and a Broad-winged Hawk (one of a group of a dozen or so) pass of the other raptors that came into view. At one point, a Peregrine Falcon flew right in front of us, but I just couldn't get the camera to focus on it. That was a big disappointment.

Montage 30 Sep 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Turkey Vulture, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Northern Harrier. (September 30, 2018).

On Monday I visited Bell's Lane in the late afternoon, and saw a probable Willow Flycatcher, "posing" in the sunlight for my camera. Not much else, however.

This morning, after dropping off the bird club bulletins at the post office and then doing recycling chores, I went to check out Montgomery Hall Park. For a long while, however, it seemed like a complete waste of time. Nothing out of the ordinary at all. At one point I played a Screech Owl call on my iPhone app, which attracted a few common birds but more importantly, it elicited vocal responses from two Screech Owls, in opposite directions! Well, that was something. On my way out of the park, I glimpsed some yellowish birds in the trees next to the road, figuring they were probably Goldfinches. Not! It was actually a family of Scarlet Tanagers, and I was lucky to get a photo of one of them before they flew off toward the softball fields.

Next I went to the new park trail at the Mill Place industrial park in Verona, hoping for one of the Yellow-billed or Black-billed Cuckoos that seen there yesterday by two bird club members, Jo King and Bonnie Hughes. No luck there. (I had stopped there once or twice over the past year, and talked to the parks & rec official about Augusta County's plans to expand that trail into a lengthy network of asphalt trails spanning Verona.) But when I visited Bell's Lane on the way home, things started buzzing -- literally! A Ruby-throated Hummingbird flew past as I was photographing a probable Willow Flycatcher (perhaps the same one as yesterday) east of the lane at the beaver pond; a young Green Heron was on the west side. In the upland pastures portion, I saw some Palm Warblers acting like sparrows foraging along the side of the lane, and then all of a sudden, a Cuckoo flew past! Fortunately, I was able to get a photo (which indicated it was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, possibly young based on the relative lack of yellow color in the bill) before a passing bicyclist scared it away. Not a bad start to the month!

Montage 2 Oct 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Scarlet Tanager (F), Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Palm Warbler, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Green Heron (J), and in center, Willow Flycatcher (prob.). (October 2, 2018).

I counted seven warbler species in the photo montages above, and adding Redstarts I have seen, that makes eight altogether this fall season. Hopefully I'll see at least a few more warblers in the weeks to come...

NOTE: Most of the text above was copied from my Facebook posts, and then edited for clarity and context. Other recent photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

tiny tanager

Favorite warblers
(already seen):

  1. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  2. Magnolia Warbler
  3. Prothonotary Warbler
  4. Blackburnian Warbler
  5. Yellow Warbler
  6. Northern Parula
  7. Black-throated Green Warbler
  8. Canada Warbler
  9. Common Yellowthroat
  10. American Redstart

Yet-unseen warblers:
(eastern species)

Yet-unseen warblers:
(western & semitropical)

"Abundant" birds
(ones I normally don't bother counting):