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June 2016
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June 1, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals sweep the Phillies

After a narrow 4-3 win against the Phillies on Monday night, the Washington Nationals came a little closer to living up to their high expectations in the games that were held last night and tonight. On Tuesday, Jayson Werth hit a solo homer in the first inning, and Daniel Murphy, Danny Espinosa, and Steven Drew likewise hit four baggers. In Drew's case, it was an inside-the-park HR, the second such feat by the Nats this year. (Ryan Zimmerman did so on May 15.) Once again, Joe Ross pitched seven solid innings to raise his win-loss record to 5-4. Final score: Nats 5, Phillies 1.

In tonight's game, the Nats scored in the first inning once again, this time thanks to an RBI double by Ryan Zimmerman. Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa hit back-to-back homers in the sixth inning, and Daniel Murphy scored an inning later after hitting a triple. Ramos had three hits and four RBIs total, and with a .338 batting average, he has to be a leading candidate for the All-Star Game. In the first inning, the Phillies' Adam Morgan hit Daniel Murphy with a pitch, which is how Murphy was able to score two runs on just one hit. (His batting average has fallen to .394.) There were brief rumblings of anger in the Nationals dugout, since Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch on Monday, and has not played in the last two games because of a leg contusion. But this time it was apparently just a mistake. (Adam Morgan's name is virtually identical to the funky neighborhood I used to enjoy in central Washington, D.C. -- Adams Morgan. Did his parents once live there?) Max Scherzer pitched just fine after a couple shaky outings, getting 11 more strikeouts, and the Nats won, 7-2. Sweep! That makes up for the Phillies having swept the Nationals in Washington in late April.

The Nats have now won four games in a row, so it would be very hard to characterize their current status as being "stuck in a rut," as I suggested on Monday. I updated the Washington Nationals page with data for May (16 wins and 14 losses), adding another grand slam (by Jayson Werth on Monday). I also added a column to the historical table showing the managers for each year from 2005 until now, as well as the regular position players and first pitcher. Attendance at Nationals games in May dropped from an average of 34,324 last year to 32,013 this year. Bad weather is probably part of that.

Mets fall behind

Meanwhile, the Mets lost their second game in a row to the White Sox, so they are now three games behind the Nationals. Today a veteran White Sox pitcher named Matt Albers, who previously had only two hits in his ten-plus years in the major leagues (mostly in the AL, where pitchers don't bat), hit a double in the top of the 13th inning and later scored what turned out to be the winning run, as the Chisox won, 2-1. How about that?

Hiram Bithorn Stadium update

Hiram Bithorn Stadium

The Hiram Bithorn Stadium diagrams have been revised, with a clearer depiction of the bends in the distinctive "corrugated" roof. (It's an extreme version of the "ribbed" roofs to which I drew attention on April 28.) For the first time there is a "transparent roof" diagram variant that shows the entry portals and roof support pillars. Also, the bullpens and bleachers are rendered much more accurately than before.

For those who don't know, Hiram Bithorn Stadium is the home of the home of the Santurce Crabbers, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. But more importantly, it has served as a "neutral venue" for a number of MLB games (see the Anomalous stadiums page), and it was the "home away from home" of the Montreal Expos in 2003 and 2004, just before that franchise was relocated to the District of Columbia, becoming the Washington Nationals. It was going to host two games between the Miami Marlins and the Pittsburgh Pirates this past Monday and Tuesday, but MLB officials cancelled those plans due to concerns over the spread of the Zika virus. The games were played in Miami instead.

Like Brazil, Puerto Rico is going through a severe political and economic crisis right now, making it harder for the government to deal with the spread of the Zika virus. In Brazil's case, the situation is so bad that some are urging that the 2016 Olympic Games be postponed or somehow relocated elsewhere. The president (Dilma Rousseff) was impeached and suspended from office for six months, while the Brazilian Senate decides whether to convict her and remove her from office for good.

June 1, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Birding around Falls Hollow

Over the past week, I have kept up my recent "feverish" pursuit of wild birds and outdoor exercise, two objectives that are mutually conducive. Not until school-related tasks are fully completed in mid-May can I devote as much time to those pursuits as I would like. So, late in the morning on Friday (May 27) I did a couple errands and then headed west through Augusta County, with no specific destination in mind. I headed toward Augusta Springs on Route 254, but on the spur of the moment decided instead to go hiking on the Falls Hollow trail, located on the southeast side of Elliott Knob. (The last time I was in that area was June 2013, on a field trip with the Augusta Bird Club.)

At first I wasn't sure how far I would hike, but after a half hour or so, I got ambitious and decided to do the entire circuit hike, which is three or four miles long altogether. (It seemed more like five or six.) The trail begins along a fire road which crosses a stream and then gradually ascends through a mixed pine-oak forest. Almost immediately, I heard Ovenbirds, and then Hooded Warblers. After making a sharp left and passing a large open meadow, I re-entered the forest and approached the main stream of Falls Hollow, as the sound of rushing water grew louder and louder. It is a beautiful, serene place, as you can see in the photo below. I heard Louisiana Waterthrushes in at least two locations, but didn't actually see any. I did hear and then see some Black-throated Blue Warblers, but the photos weren't that great. It was about this point that I experienced real difficulties in fording the stream. With all the rain we have had lately, the water was relatively fast and deep. I was afraid I might have to wade through ankle-deep water, but I finally found a place with enough big rocks to enable me to get across without getting wet.

After further climbing, the trail takes a sharp left turn away from the stream, and the vegetation changes accordingly. I heard and saw more [Hooded Warblers], and then after a few hundred more yards [of gradual climbing] I heard what I thought might be a Canada Warbler, but it turned out to be a Chestnut-sided Warbler -- [an indication that I was reaching the high altitude zone]. It came very close, and I got some nice photos of it. As an added bonus, I came across at least a dozen Pink Lady Slippers, a wild orchid that blooms in the mountains this time of year. Then after another couple hundred yards I reached the main road that parallels the power line that lead to the top of Elliott Knob, and marveled at the view of Augusta County, from above Little North Mountain. (I later calculated that I had climbed about 1,100 feet total.) I headed back down at a fairly brisk pace. During that final stretch, I saw a Wild Turkey that quickly fled, as well as several Towhees, and heard more Ovenbirds. After reaching the trail head at the bottom, I saw a snail clinging to a tall grass stem, and an Indigo Bunting. The time was getting late, so I headed home.

Birds montage 27 May 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Chestnut-sided Warbler, Ovenbird, Hooded Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler; all males. (North Mountain, 5/27/16)

Nature nontage 27 May 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Frog, Mountain Laurel blossoms, Dung Beetles, Pink Lady Slippers, snail. (North Mountain, 5/27/16)

Falls Hollow rapids, moss

Moss-covered rocks along the rapids in Falls Hollow.

Birding at Madison Run

On Memorial Day (May 30) I took a brief, rather casual hike along the Madison Run fire road, the first time I had been there this year. (I usually go there at least two or three times a year, once per season more or less.) I heard and eventually saw Lousiana Waterthrushes, Ovenbirds, Black & White Warblers, Pine Warblers, Worm-eating Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, Acadian Flycatchers (first of the year), and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

Along the way I crossed paths with some women hikers who asked me if I knew much about spiders, explaining that they had seen a large spider whose back was covered by something that looked like parasites. I was pretty sure it was a Wolf Spider, and lo and behold, I saw that very same creature on the trail a few hundred yards away. After I got home I confirmed via Google that Wolf Spider mothers do indeed carry their babies on their backs.

Wolf Spider, babies

Wolf Spider with babies, on the Madison Run fire road, May 30, 2016.

Also along Madison Run, I saw Diane Lepkowski, a birder / nature enthusiast from Rockingham County, and we had a nice talk. She is participating in the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas, an effort to systematically tabulate bird breeding activity across Virginia.

But the highlight of the day took place on my way home, when I decided to take a short detour north of Weyer's Cave to see if the Dunlin that had been reported at Leonard's Pond was still there. Indeed it was! It didn't take long after my arrival there to spot that rather boldly-plumaged sandpiper. Click!


Dunlin, at Leonard's Pond, May 30, 2016.
Roll your mouse over that image to see a montage of birds from that day. More photos (including the Acadian Flycatcher on the upper right) can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.

June 4, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals take a day off -- twice

Everybody needs a day off every now and then, and the Washington Nationals just took two of them. On Thursday, after winning four games straight, they enjoyed a well-deserved day off, their first since May 16. Then last night in Cincinnati, they had an "off day" of a different sort -- as in it just wasn't their day. Gio Gonzalez had another mediocre outing on the mound, giving up four runs in the second inning. The Nats didn't score until the eighth inning, when Jayson Werth hit a solo homer. One bright spot was Trey Turner, just called up from the minors to replace Ryan Zimmerman, who is taking paternity leave for a few days. Turner went three for three at the plate, including a double, and he also drew a walk. Unfortunately he was tagged out at third base after the Reds challenged the "safe" call, and the video evidently showed that his foot momentarily came off the bag. That killed what could have been a big rally in the fourth inning. Final score: Reds 7, Nats 2.

Wrigley Field (L.A.) update

Wrigley Field (L.A.)

The diagrams for Wrigley Field (L.A.), the original home of the Los Angeles Angels, have been revised primarily due to the addition of a new upper-deck variant showing the entry portals, etc. Among other things, that led to a change in the position of the support beams in the lower-deck variant, and in the light towers. Also, the bullpens are more detailed, and there is virtually no warning track in foul territory.

The hypothetical variant (showing the double-decked grandstand wrapping around the corners almost all the way to center field) would have raised the capacity to nearly 40,000. That was based on the idea that it would serve as the temporary home of the L.A. Dodgers (as indeed it should have been), but their owner Walter O'Malley preferred the higher ticket sales potential of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a couple miles away. Also, they would have had to have closed a street and demolish a number of nearby houses, which only would have made sense if such an expansion had been made for a long-term occupancy.

Odds 'n ends ...

I added a "new" photo to the Sportsman's Park page, one which I took when I visited the site in August 2011. It shows a youth ball field located across the street (west) from where Sportsmans Park used to be (contrary to what it says on the scoreboard), but evidently it has not been used for quite a while. That state of virtual abandonment puts an additional layer of sadness onto the expression (immortalized in the Frank Sinatra song) "There used to be a ballpark here."

Sportsmans Park ball field

Youth baseball field located across the street from the site once occupied by Sportsmans Park, in the north-central part of St. Louis.

Finally, I've had some e-mail inquiries and monetary donations in the past few weeks that I just haven't had the time to acknowledge, but I'll do so in the next couple days. Thanks for your understanding.

June 7, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Reds almost sweep the Nationals

In Cincinnati over the weekend, the Washington Nationals came within a hair's breadth of being swept by the Reds, who have been in last place in the NL Central Division for most of this season. Nats fans had high hopes that Stephen Strasburg could get his tenth win of the season, but he had to leave in the sixth inning after hurting his leg somehow. (Cramps, apparently.) Danny Espinosa hit a solo homer in the top of the eighth inning to tie the game, 3-3, but in the bottom of the inning Adam Duvall hit a three-run homer off of Shawn Kelley, and the Reds won it, 6-3. That game was interrupted by two lengthy rain delays.

On Sunday, Tanner Roark gave up five runs to the Reds in the second inning, and the situation could not have seemed bleaker. But in the top of the fourth inning, Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos both homered, and after Clint Robinson reached base on a single, manager Dusty Baker pulled Roark out and had Stephen Drew pinch hit for him. Drew hit an RBI single, and then so did Ben Revere, and all of a sudden it was a tie game. The Nats scored five more runs over the next two innings, taking a commanding lead. But then in the seventh inning, Jay Bruce hit a three-run homer to put the Reds right back in the game, down 10-8. In the bottom of the ninth, Nats closing pitcher Jonathan Papelbon put himself in a deep hole, giving up a run and loading the bases with nobody out. It seemed almost certain that the Reds would at least tie the game, and probably win, but somehow Papelbon composed himself, and got the next three batters out. Almost as if by miracle, the Nats averted being swept in Cincy, winning 10-9.

The Washington Post noted that Sunday's game was the first victory by the Nationals in Cincinnati since July 27, 2014. By amazing coincidence, I was there! (The Nats won that game, 4-2, and Doug Fister got credit for the win.)

While watching the games on TV, I noticed there is a new scoreboard behind the right field bleachers at Great American Ballpark. That's a shame, as it partly blocks the view of the Ohio River, which is one of the nicest features of that stadium. In any case, that means you-know-what! Stay tuned...

After resting on Monday (their second break in the last five days), tonight the Nationals begin a three-game series against the White Sox, in Chicago. It's young Joe Ross, who's been having a fine year, against the White Sox ace Mat Latos. By yet another amazing coincidence, he was also pitching against the Nationals in the July 27, 2014 in Cincinnati game mentioned above. He played for the Reds from 2012 through 2014, and has bounced around various teams since then.

Tomorrow, Max Scherzer will take the mound for the Nationals. He is having an up-and-down year, so anything is possible. Today's Washington Post called attention to the overall superb endurance of Nats pitchers thus far this year. [The starting rotation has the second-highest average number of innings per start after the Cubs: 6.3 vs. 6.4. They have the most number of pitchers per start, 101, and the most number of starts with at least 100 pitches, 34. Iron men!]

Stadium diagram updates

On the subjet of Cincinnati, I recently mentioned that I need to update the 2001-2002 Riverfront Stadium diagram, and have gotten started on that. This past week, unforunately, I also realized that I need to revise ALL of the Comiskey Park diagrams. I am now 98% sure that the foul lines there from the 1930s on (except for brief changes such as 1969) were 347 feet, NOT 352 feet. Stay tuned, sports fans...

For the record, I have updated the Diagram update log * page. I'll try to do likewise at least once a month...

I also created a new page that takes the place of all previous (annual) stadium update archive pages: Stadium diagram updates. It is a "work in progress," presently showing all updates since the beginning of 2013. In due course, it will go all the way back to "The Beginning," in 2003.

* Previously it said "Stadium diagram update" page (like the second page mentioned), by mistake.

June 7, 2016 [LINK / comment]

ABC field trip to Highland County

Last Saturday, June 4, I joined Allen Larner who led the Augusta Bird Club's annual early summer field trip to Highland County. The weather forecast was ominous, but Allen was determined to go, so we went! Along with Brenda and Keith Tekin, we drove west to Highland County, and met up with John Spahr and Bob Ake (who lives in the Tidewater area), and John took us to Sapling Ridge, a high-elevation location that was new for us. It didn't take long to find the Mourning Warbler which were supposed to be there, and I was thrilled to get some adequate photos. Higher up, we saw several different species of warblers, most notably Blackburnians. Later on we went to the home of the late Margaret O'Bryan in search of Golden-winged Warblers, and we did identify it but only by sound, not sight. (That was at, where we met the very friendly guy who continues to take care of the property.) Then we went to other locations where Golden-winged Warblers are known to breed, but without success. The trip was marred by mechanical problems in one of the automobiles, forcing us to spend a lot of time trying to get a tow truck. But at least while we were waiting we were able to see a lot of birds in John Spahr's back yard, most notably a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. The following list of notable sightings is not complete, as others saw birds that I missed. One of us will probably submit an eBird report in the near future.

As a footnote, I heard some Dark-eyed Juncos, but somewhat surprisingly, I didn't see any. Same for Yellow Warblers. We had a few sprinkles while looking for birds, and then after we started driving back to Staunton, we encountered a couple real deluges! Overall, it was about the same degree of success (i.e., mid-range) as our club's Highland County field trip last year (June 13); see my June 25, 2015 blog post.

Montage 04 Jun 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Bald Eagle, House Wren, Alder Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Magnolia Warbler, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Mourning Warbler, and (center) American Goldfinch. (June 4, 2016)
Roll your mouse over the image to zoom in on the "star" of the day, the Mourning Warbler.

Sandhill Cranes visit

A pair of Sandhill Cranes visited Fishersville in the first few days of June, and I was fortunate to be ready to go searching as soon as I got the e-mail alert. After a few quick minutes, bingo! I saw one such bird in the same general area in April 2014*, and four of them west of Harrisonburg in March 2014.

* The caption for the photo erroneously states that the bird was in Madison Run; I may correct that later.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes, north of Fishersville, June 2, 2016. More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.

June 9, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nats' juggernaut stalls in Chicago

If it hadn't been for a momentary lapse by starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez in the first inning, and a couple freak plays later in the game, the Washington Nationals would have swept the Chicago White Sox tonight. The White Sox scored three run in the first inning, after Gio gave up two walks and two doubles. Then he settled down and kept his team in the ball game, getting ten strikeouts over seven innings. Daniel Murphy hit a solo homer in the fifth inning, and in the sixth inning the Nats had runners on second and third with no outs, but then Jose Lobaton was thrown out at home (base-running miscue), and then Jayson Werth grounded into a double play. In the top of the ninth, the Nats were threatening to tie it, with runners on first and third, but Daniel Murphy flew out to end the game. ChiSox 3, Nats 1.

In the first two games of the interleague series at U.S. Cellular Field, the Nats continued their recent offensive outburst, scoring 10 (again!) and then 11 runs. It was only the second time since their 2005 "rebirth" that the Nationals have racked up double-digit scores in three consecutive games, the first being June 26-28, 2012 against the Colorado Rockies. (They actually lost the June 28 game, 11-10 in 11 innings, and didn't even win the series because the Rockies had beaten them on June 25.) After checking my records, I determined that the Nationals' highest run total for three consecutive games was 34, on April 28-30, 2015. (It was WSH 13, ATL 12; WSH 13, ATL 4; and WSH 8, NYM 2.)

On Wednesday night, the Nats scored four runs in the top of the first, two of which came on a home run by Ryan Zimmerman. Later Stephen Drew, Danny Espinosa, and Jayson Werth homered as well. With a nice cushion, Max Scherzer had a fine day on the mound, going seven full innings without giving up a run. The White Sox scored their only four runs in the bottom of the ninth, three of which were the responsibility of relief pitcher Shawn Kelley, who had to be replaced after getting two outs. That was embarrassing. Final score: 11-4.

So, the Nationals concluded a successful road trip, winning six out of nine games. This weekend they face the Phillies, whom the Nats just swept last week, and then the too-good-to-be-true Chicago Cubs, who now have a 41-17 record, ten games ahead of the Pirates and the Cardinals. Talk about a juggernaut!

Tonight in Milwaukee, the New York Mets beat the Brewers, thereby climbing to 2.5 games behind the Nats in the NL East.

Baseball in Richmond

While visiting Our State's Capital (Richmond), yesterday, I stopped at the minor league baseball stadium known as The Diamond, and took some photos. It reminds me that the existing diagram and photos on The Diamond page are pretty lame, so I'll put that on my to-do list. The last time I visited there, September 30, 2004, it was still the home of the Richmond Braves, but they left after the 2009 season and moved to suburban Atlanta -- Gwinnett County, to be more exact. (Why? Because the Atlanta Braves demanded a new city-funded stadium to replace the one built in 1985.) The Diamond is now home of the Richmond "Flying Squirrels," the AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Seriously?

They keep talking about building a new baseball stadium in Richmond, probably near downtown, but there is great reluctance to spend precious public money. And with good reason! I think they can make do with The Diamond for the foreseeable future, adding luxury suites or whatever fan amenities may be necessary to generate more revenue.

The Diamond ground view

Ground level view of The Diamond, home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

June 9, 2016 [LINK / comment]

FOD Prothonotary Warblers!

I mentioned in my blog post of May 21 that one of my birding goals for this summer was to see and hopefully photograph a Prothonotary Warbler. Well, Jacqueline and I drove down to the Richmond area yesterday, and I did in fact succeed in that particular quest. The last time I had seen that species was almost exactly eight years ago, which means this is not only a first-of-year (FOY) sighting, but a first-of-decade (FOD) sighting! (I just made that up.) The birds were in that very same area as in 2008: the Henricus Park / Dutch Gap conservation area, about ten miles south of downtown. Beginning at just before 10:00, we saw the first of many Ospreys over the James River. We then walked along the trails, mostly right along the James River, and were amazed by the large number of Zebra Swallowtail butterflies all around that area. I remember seeing some in river lowlands in Nelson County, but apparently their range doesn't extend any farther west. The photo at the bottom shows the elongated tail (one of two), something I had not noticed before.

Soon we heard some chirping and saw some rustling in the bushes, and eventually I picked out the unique song of a White-eyed Vireo, one of which was briefly in view. Soon thereafter we heard the repetitive song of a Prothonotary Warbler, or perhaps two of them. They were in an inaccessible swamp, however, so I couldn't get very close. After another 20 minutes of patient stalking, we finally saw one. That was a relief, as I had been growing impatient. Their brilliant orange-tinted yellow color is quite breathtaking. Getting the right angle for a good photograph proved very difficult, however.

On the way back to the parking lot, I had a glimpse of a big brown bird in the forest, and soon managed to get a look at the face of a Barred Owl, the first one I had seen in years! I also heard some Acadian Flycatchers, and finally saw and photographed one. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers also made appearances, while Common Yellowthroats and Louisiana Waterthrushes made themselves heard. Later on, in the early afternoon at the Henricus Historical Park, I saw another Prothonotary Warbler, and likewise it was just too quick for a good photo. I did see and photograph an Acadian Flycatcher there, however. So, I'll probably have to give it another shot next year, perhaps at Great Dismal Swamp. Nevertheless, I was satisfied with the views and the photos that I did get.

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler, at the Dutch Gap conservation area, June 8. (Click on that image to see an enlarged version of the photo.) More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail, at the Dutch Gap conservation area, June 8.

June 13, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals sweep the Phillies again

The loss to Chicago White Sox last Thursday turned out to be a mere bump in the road, as the Washington Nationals have won four straight games since then. On Friday, welcoming the Phillies to town, they overcame an early 4-0 deficit to take an 8-4 lead, with home runs by Wilson Ramos, Steven Drew, and Danny Espinosa. With such big run support, Stephen Strasburg was able to stay in the game through seven innings, getting the win (the first in the majors to reach ten wins!) and 11 strikeouts. Final score: 9-6.

On Saturday, Tanner Roark was more dominant than in any other game this year, and with plenty of hits (but no homers) to back him up, the Nats won easily, 8-0. Michael Taylor and Clint Robinson both had three hits.

On Sunday, young Joe Ross was in control, as the Nats took an early 3-0 lead, but he left the game after seven innings with the score tied 3-3. In the ninth inning, Jonathan Papelbon gave up a home run to Maikel Franco, and was in line for the loss. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, it didn't look so good for the Nationals, but Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa singled, Ben Revere flew out, and Clint Robinson drew a walk to load the bases. Up to the plate came veteran clutch slugger Jayson Werth, and after a valiant battle, fouling off several pitches, he came through with a line drive single up the middle, allowing two runs to score. Jubilation on the field!! The Nats somehow found a way to come from behind, winning 5-4 and thereby completing a sweep of the Phillies for the second time this month.

As a footnote, Jonathan Papelbon "earned" his first win of the year, obviously meaningless. He has a record of 1-2, with 16 saves out of 18 save opportunities.

Scherzer almost perfect

The pressure was high as the MLB's hottest team, the Chicago Cubs, came to town tonight. Max Scherzer not only rose to the occasion, he was flirting with a perfect game once again. (See June 24, 2015.) In fact, he struck out nine of the first ten batters, making fans wonder if he was going to surpass his incredible 20-strikeout performance of May 11. But in the sixth inning, after a long at-bat, Addison Russell hit a home run into the left field corner, thus tying the game. But the Nats bounced right back with a rally in the bottom of the inning, sparked by a Wilson Ramos home run, and the 4-1 score lasted until the end of the game.

The Nationals (40-24) thus become the second MLB team to reach the 40-win level this year, after the Cubs, who are now 43-19. Texas will probably become the third such team, but not tonight. (The A's are way ahead of the Rangers, 12-2.)

Cobb County swindle

Get ready for some big scandals involving the Atlanta Braves' new ballpark being built in suburban Cobb County, north of Atlanta. The Braves stadium deal is more than a crooked-accounting swindle, it's being compared with some of the worst such deals ever. Read what Neil deMause has to say about that at; also see the summary at What a shame for the Braves.

New page: My ballpark visits!

In preparation for my first Nats game some time in the near future, and possibly even further to the northeast (!), I put together a new Web page: My ballpark visits. It consists of a brief chronology of my baseball "grand tours" which began in 2008, followed by a detailed description of my visits to 26 current and former MLB stadiums, as well as a jumbo-sized photograph of those stadiums. (The quality varies.) CAUTION: Your eyes may pop out of your head! smile Eventually, those jumbo photographs will be incorporated onto the respective stadium pages.

June 14, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Birding on Hite Hollow Road

On Saturday, June 11, I drove up Hite Hollow Road to the summit (ridge) of North Mountain, located about two miles southwest of Elliott Knob. This was the starting point of the Augusta Bird Club hike in late June 2013. The elevation is about 3200 feet, high enough for a number of birds that are only seen in this area during the colder months. I was inspired in part by the trip made there by Penny and Lisa earlier this spring, when they saw a Winter Wren and other unusual birds. On the way up the rugged road (a challenge for my Hyundai), I stopped at the hairpin curve and heard a Prairie Warbler below. This was confirmed a day later by Allen Larner. Once at the summit, I didn't do much hiking, I mostly just watched and listened within an area about 300 yards long. After slow going at first, I eventually hit pay dirt. The highlights from the montage below were the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male), Indigo Bunting (female, with young ones not photographed), and an Eastern Wood Pewee (female, presumably) building a nest right over the road at the summit! Others that were seen but not in this photo montage include Dark-eyed Junco, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Northern Flicker. I also heard a Cerulean Warbler just below the summit (east side), as well as a Hooded Warbler. No Canada Warblers or Winter Wrens, however. On the way back down I heard and then spotted a Pine Warbler, and got some good photos. Finally, along the stream at the bottom was an Acadian Flycatcher. Quite a day!

Montage 11 Jun 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Indigo Bunting (female), Great Crested Flycatcher, Pine Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, Ovenbird, Scarlet Tanager, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. (June 11, 2016)

eBird report

Since it was a semi-serious birding venture, as opposed to something of a more casual nature, I submitted an eBird report, summarized below. Once I figure out the VABBA protocols, I'll submit a report about the breeding Eastern Wood Pewees and Indigo Buntings.

Hite Hollow Road, Augusta County, Virginia, US
Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:35 AM
Protocol: Traveling
Party Size: 1
Duration: 4 hour(s)
Distance: 1.5 mile(s)
Observers: Andrew Clem
Comments: N/A
32 species total

Blue Ridge mini-hike

The day before, June 10, I drove up to the Blue Ridge and stopped at the intersection of Howardsville Turnpike and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and was entertained by a variety of birds. Then I went for a brief "hike" along the trails near the Humpback Rocks parking area. My main "target" was the Cerulean Warbler, and I did hear several of them, but only saw one or two high in the tree tops. Other sightings (besides those in this photo montage) included American Redstarts, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Pileated Woodpeckers.

Montage 10 Jun 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood Pewee, Scarlet Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Towhee, Cedar Waxwing, and (in center) Chipping Sparrow. (June 10, 2016)
More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.

June 16, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Holy $#!+ -- Nationals win big showdown with Cubs

The series that was hyped as a preview of a postseason contest more than lived up to expectations, as the Washington Nationals managed to overcome the visiting Chicago Cubs in unbelievably dramatic fashion. It was a game that Nationals fans will remember for years.

It all started as an epic pitchers' duel between Stephen Strasburg and Jason Hammel, both of whom gave up just one run over seven innings. (Both those runs were scored in the first inning, in fact.) Then, in the bottom of the eighth, pinch-hitter Steven Drew smacked a home run just over the corner in right-center field, giving the Nats a 2-1 lead. That was the Nationals' ninth pinch-hit home run this year -- amazing! But in the top of the ninth, Dusty Baker sent to the mound Matt Belisle, just called back up after being on the disabled list since late April. Apparently, he wasn't ready because he gave up a double (to Kris Bryant) on the first and only pitch he threw. The next pitcher, Oliver Perez gave up a home run to Anthony Rizzo, and all of a sudden a 2-1 lead had turned into a 3-2 deficit for the Nats. But in the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper drew a leadoff walk, and two batters later, Wilson Ramos smashed a single toward center field, allowing Harper to score the tying run from second base. That was a huge clutch hit for Wilson!

The game went into extra innings, and in the top of the 12th the Cubs scored a run thanks to singles by Albert Almora and Addison Russell, and a wild pitch by Yusmeiro Petit, who was in line for the loss. The bottom of the inning started with a called strikeout by Anthony Rendon, who was ejected after arguing with the umpire. Then Trevor Cahill hit Danny Espinosa with a pitch, and Danny soon stole second base. Up to the plate stepped Michael Taylor, who hit a single into right field, allowing Epinosa to score. Adam Warren then replaced Cahill on the mound, and he struck out Chris Heisey, leaving it all up to Jayson Werth. Could he do it again, like he did on Sunday? YES! After another long count, he smashed a ball to center field, bouncing off the wall near the top, enabling Taylor to make it all the way to home plate for the winning run. Un-be-lievable!!! Werth ran out to right field, mobbed by his team mates, a repeat performance from his Sunday walk-off hit. And that is how the Nationals beat the Cubs 5-4, thus winning two out of three games against the best (?) team in the majors right now. For a complete rundown, see

In the postgame on-field interview with "MASN Dan" Kolko, Jayson Werth was at his roguish best, uttering a series of uncensored profanities to express his glee. Asked about critics who said he was over the hill, the veteran slugger said "They can kiss my ass." He'll probably get a fine for that, and MASN may have to do such interviews on a 5-second tape delay in the future. smile

Another reason for celebrating was that the the Nationals' manager, born on June 15, 1949, just completed his 67th year of life.

Happy birthday, Dusty Baker!

I had been planning to drive up to D.C. to see yesterday's game, but the forecast of overcast skies and chance of rain dissuaded me from making the trip. In fact, it was sunny for most of the day, and I really blew it. Argh-h-h!!! frown But if I had been there, the climax of the game would have probably looked something like this:

Jayson Werth HR 090812 closeup.jpg

Jayson Werth hits a home run to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth on Sept. 8, 2012. The Nats went on to beat the Marlins in ten innings, 7-6. (See my Sept. 10, 2012 blog post.)

The Tuesday game was also very close and tense, as the Nationals erased a 3-1 deficit with RBI sacrifice flies in both the seventh and eighth innings. But in the top of the ninth, Nats reliever Sammy Solis walked the first batter, who then advanced to second on a sac bunt, and then scored on a double hit by Albert Almora. The Nationals went down 1, 2, 3 in the bottom of the ninth, and the Cubs won it, 4-3.

Gio Gonzalez lasted six and one third innings in that game, the first Nationals starting pitcher since June 7 (Joe Ross) not to pitch for exactly seven innings. If that's not a testament to the amazing reliability and durability of the Nats' starting rotation, I don't know what is. The Nats' only two losses in the last ten games were in games that Gio started. He's not doing badly, he just hasn't had much run support.

Speaking of pitchers, the Nats' closer Jonathan Papelbon has been put on the disabled list due to an "intercostal strain." That's a muscle in the rib cage, apparently. In the June 12 game against the Phillies, Papelbon allowed the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth, and would have been charged with the loss if Jayson Werth had not hit the game-winning two-run single in the bottom of the ninth. For the time being (at least), there will be some anxiety about who serves as closing pitcher for the Nats.

With a successful 5-1 home stand behind them, the Nationals have raised their win-loss record to 41-25, giving them a five-game lead over the Mets in the NL East. Today the "D.C. 9" are flying to California, where they will play the San Diego Padres [in a four-game series] and then the Los Angeles Dodgers in [a] three-game series.

The Diamond update

The Diamond

The diagram for The Diamond has been revised for the first time since 2008, and there is a new upper-deck variant as well. Foul territory has been expanded slightly (and measured for the first time), and new detail such as the entry portals, bullpen mounds, and the structural beams behind the rim of the upper deck have been added as well. Finally, there are four new photos which I took while in Richmond last week. For those outside Virginia, The Diamond is the home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, and the former home of the Richmond Braves, who relocated to suburban Atlanta in 2009.

Coincidentally, I noticed on The Diamond page a comment from a fan named Doug Coppage, who grew up in Richmond and said he once "saw Dusty Baker and Ralph Garr play at old Parker Field." That was the minor league ballpark that preceded The Diamond.

Hockey & basketball arenas

I have learned to be very careful in commenting about hockey, a sport that I only follow casually and often describe erroneously. (See, for example, June 15, 2009.) In fact, the last time I made a hockey diagram variant was New Year's Day 2015, when the Washington Capitals won a dramatic outdoor "Winter Classic" match held in Nationals Park. Well, the Capitals set some kind of regular-season record for highest winning percentage this year (2015-2016), but then (as has happened in past years), they fell flat in the playoffs. The team that beat them, the Pittsburgh Penguins, went on to win the Stanley Cup National Hockey League championship, defeating the San Jose Sharks. At least I think so... smile

As for the other indoor "winter" sport, basketball, Game 6 of the NBA championship series will be held tonight at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Led by LeBron James, the Cavaliers bounced back from a 3-1 deficit against the favored Golden State (Oakland) Warriors, led by Stephen Curry, and have a solid chance to even the series at home. For those with feeble memories (such as me), it may help to mention that the NBA playoffs began on April 16 -- exactly two months ago today! If that's not a ridiculously prolonged schedule, I don't know what is. For the complete NBA postseason scores, see

I already knew that the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Quicken Loans Arena, is right next door to Progressive Field. (I took a photo of it just before attending an Indians game on August 7, 2012; see below.) But then I realized that that other NBA finalist team this year has a home court right next to an MLB stadium: the "Golden State" Warriors' Oracle Arena is next to Oakland ("") Coliseum. So, that led me to inquire into which NHL and NBA arenas are located reasonably close to MLB stadiums. Information in the following table, which should be considered preliminary, will eventually be incorporated somehow into the Stadium proximity page, after I gather similar information for football stadiums. Note that one other arena might qualify for this list, but has neither an NHL nor an NBA franchise at present: U.S. Bank Arena, next to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

City NBA team NHL team Arena name MLB team Stadium name Approx. distance
Cleveland Cavaliers -- Quicken Loans Arena Indians Progressive Field 200 ft.
Oakland (G.S.) Warriors -- Oracle Arena Athletics Oakland Coliseum 200 ft.
Minneapolis Timberwolves * Target Center Twins Target Field 400 ft.
Denver Nuggets -- Pepsi Center Rockies Coors Field 1/2 mile
Toronto Raptors -- Air Canada Centre Blue Jays Rogers Centre 1/2 mile
Anaheim -- Mighty Ducks Honda Arena Angels Angels Stadium 1 mile

* There is an NHL franchise in Minnesota, the Wild, but it is based at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul.

Quicken Loans Arena

Quicken Loans Arena, just a stone's throw from Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland. It hosted Games 3 and 4 of the 2016 NBA Championship Series, and will host Game 6 tonight.

June 20, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nats' momentum stalls in San Diego

The Nationals' long road trip got off to a good start last Thursday in San Diego, with two victorious slug-fests against the Padres. After a long slump, Bryce Harper hit a home run (his first since May 27) to spark a four-run rally. The very next batter, Wilson Ramos, then hit a home run as well. Anthony Rendon later homered as well, which came in handy as the Padres staged a late-game rally that fell short. Tanner Roark gave up two first-inning runs, but settled down after that and went six innings, qualifying for the win. Final score: Nats 8, Padres 5.

On Friday night, the Nats staged a four-run rally in the third inning, capped by a Ryan Zimmerman home run. Daniel Murphy also homered, and got three RBIs, which proved crucial in the Nats' 7-5 victory over San Diego. Joe Ross went six innings and got his sixth win of the year.

On Saturday, it was a tense pitchers' duel for most of the game, after both teams scored a run in the first inning. The Nats took the lead in the seventh inning on a weird play in which the Padres' [pitcher] failed to catch the ball at first base, and Wilson Ramos scored from third. Ryan Zimmerman hit a clutch RBI single in the eighth inning to give the Nats a 3-1 lead, and it looked like smooth sailing for a possible four-game sweep. But in the bottom of the eighth inning Felipe Rivero took the mound, and all hell broke loose. He gave up two singles and a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Then Wil Myers doubled on a squirrely Texas Leaguer to left-center field, thus tying the game. Then there was an intentional walk to Matt Kemp (understandable), followed by a comeback ground ball to the pitcher. Easy out at home, right? Nope, Rivero mishandled the ball and threw it past Wilson Ramos, allowing another run to score. Finally, Dusty Baker replaced Rivero with Blake Treinin who walked the first batter and then gave up a two-run single to Yangervis Solarte. That made it a 7-3 game, an utterly disgraceful reversal of fortune, and the Nats failed to score in the top of the ninth.

That kind of blunder can really ruin a team's competitive spirit, and it indeed may have done so in this particular instance. On Sunday afternoon, Michael Taylor homered on the first pitch of the game, and later hit a double, another homer, and a single. Pretty darned impressive for a second-stringer! (Ben Revere is the usual center fielder.) But the other Nationals did little at the plate, while Gio Gonzalez just could not contain the Padres, giving up six runs (five earned, one due to his own error) in five and a third innings. It was the shortest outing by a Nats starting pitcher since June 7 (Joe Ross). Final score: Padres 6, Nats 3. And that is how the home team managed to split the series with the Washington Nationals.

Tonight, the Nats are facing the L.A. Dodgers and their ace Clayton Kershaw, but Stephen Strasburg was replaced as starting pitcher by Yusmeiro Petit. That's a stiff challenge to meet...

Cubs sweep the Pirates

The Chicago Cubs are doing so well this year that hardly anything surprises me anyone. The Pittsburgh Pirates have sagged in the standings lately, and they wilted under the heat from the host team at the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field. To put icing on the cake of their latest triumph yesterday, the Cubs' Willson Contreras hit a home run in his first major league at-bat, one of five four-baggers hit by the Cubs. I was lucky to be watching that live and in living color on ESPN, going back and forth between that game and the big one in Oakland; see below. See

Braves sweep the Mets

I'll bet nobody saw this one coming: the humble Atlanta Braves swept the New York Mets, in Citi Field. In the Sunday game, the Braves' on-and-off ace, Julio Teheran, pitched a complete game one-hit shutout, as the visitors from Atlanta won, 1-0.

Cavaliers world champs!

At Oracle Arena in Oakland, California last night, the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers managed to beat the heavily favored Golden State Warriors, 94-89. I watched as much basketball in that one game as I had for the entire season, switching back and forth between that game and the Cubs-Pirates game. It was the first pro sports championship for the city of Cleveland since December 1964, when the Browns beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0 to take the NFL title. (That was two years before the first Super Bowl, in January 1967.)

Cavaliers fail to repeat

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers from the University of Virginia were eliminated from the NCAA regional championship series last week, so they won't be returning to the College World Series in Omaha this year.

I happened to be in Charlottesville today, and took some photos of Davenport field, which has had expanded seating since the last time I saw a game there. Photo updates pending...

Roosevelt Stadium update

Roosevelt Stadium

I noticed the impression by Philip Matsikoudis posted on the Roosevelt Stadium page, and decided to make a quick revision of the diagram thereon, with a football variant and a "tranparent roof" variant for the first time. The last diagram update for that one was in July 2011.

Roosevelt Stadium was one of those public works projects aimed at lifting America out of the Great Depression, one of the reasons they named it after the president. Can you imagine a stadium being named after President Obama?

Ballpark (& arena) news

Mike Zurawski brought to my attention three slight errors in my blog post of last Thursday. First, the Anaheim NHL team is no longer named the Mighty Ducks, they are just the Ducks since 2006. Second, the Air Canada Centre in Tornto is used by both the NBA Raptors and the NHL Maple Leafs. Third, the Pepsi Center in Denver is used by both the NBA Nuggets and the NHL Avalanche. Once I update the Stadium proximity page, all that will be straightened out.

Mike also informed me that the Texas Rangers are seeking municipal funding to build a new ballpark that would replace Globe Life Park, the latest in a series of names. It would be a climate-controlled retractable roof stadium, costing about a billion dollars. and That is almost as outrageous an idea as the new Braves stadium being built in suburban Atlanta! Texas fan Clifford "Bucky" Nance filled me in on some of the political details. Basically, the Arlington city council approved the funding plan, with a resolution to put it on the General Election Ballot in November. If the measure is passed, the city would pay $500 Million and the Rangers would match it. Funds would come from continuing the existing special tax levy that was originally created to fund the Dallas Cowboys' stadium.

In response, I added a new "proposed alternative" diagram for Globe Life Park, reducing some of the excess capacity and greatly expanding the roof to provide more shade. That should at least add another ten years of usable life to that facility, misbegotten though it may be.

Finally, while watching the Orioles-Red Sox game on MASN last Thursday, I noticed that the upper deck of Fenway Park has been extended by about 20 feet, almost all the way to the foul pole. Those diagrams were due for an upgrade anyway...

June 22, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nationals choke in Los Angeles

After the Nationals' disappointing final two games in San Diego, everyone was hoping that the Nationals would rise to the occasion in the big pitching showdown in L.A. between Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw. After all, there was a Strasburg mini-poster in the Sunday Washington Post! Alas, that did not come to pass, as Strasburg had a tight muscle in his back and decided to give it a rest rather than risk a serious injury, as he has done in the past. His replacement on the mound, Yusmeiro Petit, did a very good job, going six innings while giving up just three runs. But that wasn't good enough, as the Nationals could only manage to score one run during the [seven] innings that Kershaw pitched. Dodgers 4, Nats 1.

But last night's game was a different story. Bryce Harper hit a solo homer in the first inning, his second of the past week and 15th of the year. Is he finally back on track? In the fifth inning, Danny Espinosa did likewise -- his 13th homer of the year. He has the second-most home runs in the majors since May 29, if I read that caption on MASN right. But the rest of the Nats batters were inconsistent, getting [just one out of ten] hits with runners in scoring position. They actually out-hit the Dodgers 11 to 7, but all that mattered was the three-run home run by Yasmani Grandal (who?) in the bottom of the eighth. That spoiled what had been a magnificent outing by starting pitcher Tanner Roark. Part of the problem was base-running mistakes: Roark was thrown out at third by second baseman Chase Utley, wasting the double he hit right after Espinosa's homer. Also, Wilson Ramos was thrown out at home on a single (by Tanner Roark!) to left field after being waved ahead by the third base coach. [That was the one hit with RISP.] That was just stupid; everybody knows Ramos can't run. But in general it was the wasted opportunities for hitters, especially Ryan Zimmerman who struck out (after doubling in his previous at bat) with the bases loaded to end the top of the fifth inning. Argh-h-h! Final score: 3-2. I asked on Facebook, "When is the last time a team has hit five doubles, none of which resulted in a run?"

Tonight the Nats try to avoid being swept, with Joe Ross facing Julio Urias. Ross is good (6-4 record, compared to 0-2 for Urias), and the Nats should win. After a day of rest, the Nats head to Milwaukee for a three-game series agains the Brewers.

Odds 'n ends

I added a second football diagram to the Roosevelt Stadium page, since the first one (with the gridiron extending from the infield out to center field) was extremely far from the seats. It is more likely that the second such diagram (with the gridiron parallel to the first base line) was the standard arrangement.

I added four new photos (which I took [two days ago]) to the Davenport Field page, including the one below. While there, I noticed that the distances to the outfield fence have been reduced slightly since the last time I saw a baseball game there in 2011: from 335 feet to 332 along the foul lines, and from 377 feet to 370 to the power alleys. (I previously indicated my belief that the power alley distances were exaggerated, and that is probably still the case, but it may simply be a matter of where the distance markers were placed.

Davenport Field 2015 Nat. Champs

The back of the right field bleachers at Davenport Field, home of the University of Virginia Cavaliers, the 2015 National Champions.

June 29, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Nats bounce back from slump

Well, that early-summer nightmare seems to be over. After seven consecutive losses, the Nats finally won a game in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon, by the barest of margins. In a last-minute rotation switch, Tanner Roark had another magnificent outing on the mound, going seven full innings without giving up a run. (Stephen Strasburg was scratched and was later put on the 15-day disabled list, with a strained back muscle.) Unlike the June 21 game in L.A., however, Roark had just enough run support. Replacement players Jose Lobaton and Clint Robinson each homered, proving decisive in the 3-2 victory.

Tensions were high as the Mets came to town on Monday night, in the Nationals' first home game in nearly two weeks. The Mets took an early lead, 4-0 by the middle of the third inning, and it could have been worse. But the Nats bounced back with a vengeance, and the opponents' ace Noah Syndergaard was replaced after giving up five runs in the bottom of the third. The Nats piled on more runs over the next three innings, while Joe Ross went a full six innings without giving up any more runs. Final score: Nats 11, Mets 4.

On Tuesday night, the Nats' hot pitching prospect Lucas Giolito took the mound after getting called up from the minors to replace Stephen Strasburg. Could he fulfill the sky-high expectations held of him? Absolutely, yes! He went four innings while only giving up one hit, but a heavy rain forced a lengthy delay that prevented him from returning to the mound and getting credit for the win. Anthony Rendon got a clutch RBI triple, and Bryce Harper later homered and Wilson Ramos batted in two more runs with a double, as the Nats won again, 5-0.

To recap the series in Milwaukee, the Brewers won the first two games. On Friday, Max Scherzer was once again uneven -- sometimes razor sharp and sometimes not. He gave up five runs over seven innings, while the Nats only managed to score three, in spite of four hits by Wilson Ramos. In the race for highest batting average in the majors, Ramos has pulled to within a few percentage points of Daniel Murphy, who has been in a slump, relatively speaking.

On Saturday, Gio Gonzalez had another awful outing, giving up six earned runs and lasting only three innings. He seems particularly susceptible to emotional ups and downs, so maybe he'll pull out of it. As Yogi Berra once said, "90 percent of baseball is half mental." ( The Nats struggled to close the gap late in the game, powered by a resurgence in hitting by Daniel Murphy, but fell short, 6-5.

That seven-game losing streak was the longest such streak for the Nationals since August 28 - September 5, 2009, when the Nats lost eight games in a row. That was in the midst of the Nats' worst year, when they went 59-103 (.364). (See my Washington Nationals page.)

The Dodgers completed their sweep of the Nationals on Wednesday night (one week ago), turning a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 victory with two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. It wasted a fine outing by starting pitcher Joe Ross. Shawn Kelley took the loss after allowing two consecutive singles, but the real blame lay with Michael Taylor, who let the second of those hits get through his glove, bouncing all the way to the center field wall, allowing the runner on first and the batter to score. I'm pretty sure that's the first ninth-or-later-inning comeback the Nats have had (either way) this season, so I will update the Washington Nationals page with that information once the last game of this month is played.

Another element of difficulty for the Nats recently is that closing pitcher Jonathan Papelbon has been put on the disabled list, forcing Dusty Baker to reshuffle bullpen duties. I have been pretty hard on Papelbon in the past, and I'm still not convinced that he is the best closing pitcher for the Nats, but he has done fairly well in spite of a few lapses, and he seems to have made amends for his assault on Bryce Harper last September. (Jayson Werth referred to Papelbon as the "D.C. Strangler." smile) Who knows, one month from now Aroldis Chapman may be wearing a Nationals uniform!

So, the Nationals now enjoy a 4.5-game lead in the NL East, but the Miami Marlins have replaced the Mets in second place. The Nats are hoping to complete a sweep of their division rivals from New York this evening, and I'll be there!

June 29, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Shenandoah National Park birding

As bird breeding season gradually nears an end, each opportunity to see neotropical migrants becomes more and more precious. On June 22-23, Jacqueline and I went up to the Shenandoah National Park for some hiking and relaxation. We knew the weather was going to be iffy, but were startled by the fierce thunderstorm during the night. (That was when the devastating rains and floods struck West Virginia, no doubt part of the same weather system.) We saw several Chestnut-sided Warblers, as well as the other birds in the photo montage below. On our way back, we stopped at the High Top Mountain parking lot about one mile south of the Route 33 intersection with Skyline Drive, hoping to see a Kentucky Warbler that had been reported there. Sure enough, I soon spotted it, but just couldn't get a good photo of it. The winds started kicking up, and rain threatened again, so I decided to try again some other day.

Montage 23 Jun 2016

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Chestnut-sided Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Wood Phoebe, American Redstart, Indigo Bunting, and Scarlet Tanager. All males except for the Phoebe, which is undetermined. (June 20-23, 2016)

On June 18, I hiked along Madison Run for the second time this year, and for the first time I hiked up the side trail toward Austin Mountain. The highlight of the day was a close encounter with a Pine Warbler, who responded fiercely not only to his own song being played, but also to the song of the Worm-eating Warbler, which I heard but did not see. Other birds of note included Louisian Waterthrushes, Ovenbirds, Blue-headed Vireos, Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and a possible Broad-winged Hawk.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler, June 18. More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.

While I was at Madison Run, some hikers pointed out to me what I believe was a Northern Water Snake. According to

Nonvenomous; adult size 30 - 60 inches. Basic color varies from reddish-brown to pinkish-purple, with brown to black bands. This common NC snake prefers a wet environment, but during rainy weather may travel a long distance from water. Feed on frogs, toads, and fish. These aggressive snakes will vigorously defend themselves by biting and discharging a foul-smelling musk. ...

They're "aggressive"? Yikes.

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake, at Madison Run, June 18. Roll your mouse over the image to see a closeup.

Finally, on Monday I saw and photographed a Great Blue Heron on Kiddsville Rd., while looking for the Sandhill Cranes that apparently still lurking there. (I saw them there on June 2.) Later I stopped at Betsy Bell Hill, and got some nice photographs of a Scarlet Tanager and a Hairy Woodpecker, both males.

Bird photo update

For the first time in over a year, I have updated my Wild Birds species list page, showing the best photos I have taken for a large majority of species from this area, as well as species seen in other areas, indicated with a distinct color lettering.

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