March 31, 2007
Four members of the Augusta Bird Club joined me for a field trip to the Chimney Hollow Trail this morning, nearly ten months after my previous field trip there last May. They were: Jo King, Ed and Nancy Lawler, and Dave McRuer of the Virginia Wildlife Center, who -- coincidentally -- briefed me on raptor rehabilitation procedures last Tuesday.
As we began, I gave a preview of the target species I was hoping to find, first and foremost a Blue-headed vireo. Right on cue, one began singing before we had walked 50 yards. Bingo! We tracked it down but only caught a brief glimpse as it flew away in the tree tops. Further along the trail, we heard more of them, as well as some Pine warblers, but we didn't get many good views. Still, both of them counted as a first-of-season sighting for me. Because of recent rains, the water was higher than I expected, so we decided not to risk the third stream crossing on the trail. On the return leg of our shortened hike, we encountered a busy cluster of Golden-crowned kinglets. Near the end, I suggested that we take a side trail just in case there were any waterthrushes present, and sure enough, we soon heard a Louisiana waterthrush, which Dave McRuer spotted in a tree. Double bingo! Interestingly, the earliest in the season I had ever seen those two target species was only one day earlier: March 30, 2000 for the former, and March 30, 2002 for the latter.
Then we drove over to nearby Braley's Pond, and I pointed out the nest where we saw the Phoebe nestlings last year. Soon we saw two Phoebes flying nearby. Pine warblers were singing in several places, and we saw a few of them, but none of the expected swallows or kingfishers. The best sightings there were the Brown creeper, the Pileated woodpecker, and two Yellow-bellied sapsuckers (see photo; the red throats indicate they are males) feasting on an oozing tree. They were so ravenous that they didn't mind our aapproaching to within 30 feet or so. We also [heard but did not see another Louisiana waterthrush and] saw several turtles on logs in the pond. Finally, we drove up to Ramsey's Draft, but the only bird there was a Pileated woodpecker. We did see some Bloodroot flowers , however. Today's list:
* = seen at other places. Also heard but not seen: Flickers, Ruffed grouse (probable; it flushed nearby), and Downy woodpeckers. All agreed it was a very good day for birding, and a very good place. Many thanks to Jo, Ed, Nancy, and Dave for coming along.