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May 3, 2009 [LINK / comment]

(Very) Big Spring Day, 2009

Yesterday was the official "Big Spring Day," when birders across the country tabulate birds at the peak of migration season. For me, it was an "enormous" Spring Day. I covered two locations: the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad and Betsy Bell Hill. The weather was ominous, but the rain lasted only for a short while. What follows are the highlights of the two separate outings, taken from the reports I filed with eBird:

Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad

During my morning excursion, along the trail behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad, I saw a total of SIX species for the first time this season, and 43 species altogether over the course of an hour and a half. It was the same place where I had done the Big Spring Day last year, when I counted only 29 species. The biggest surprise was getting a great view of a Black-billed Cuckoo, only the second one I have ever seen!

** - Species for which I was the only person in the Augusta County area to spot.

I was a bit surprised there were no Bluebirds or Brown thrashers to be seen, and one very common bird was absent until the very end of my walk: the humble Song Sparrow.

Betsy Bell Hill

In the late afternoon, I went to Betsy Bell Hill on the south side of Staunton, and did a loop hike counter-clockwise, covering the entire hill. I saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo almost as soon as I stepped out of my car, so that was a good sign of things to come. On my way to the top of the hill, I saw three of the Scarlet tanagers in a "soap opera" -- two males chasing one female. At the top I saw two first -of-the-season birds: a male Black-throated Blue Warbler and a Wood thrush, as well as an Ovenbird and a few others. Not much on the western side of the hill, but on the southern side about half-way down, I came across one of best warbler "fallouts" I've ever seen, with NINE warbler species total including a probable Golden-winged warbler, plus a couple I couldn't identify for sure. Blackburnian Warblers were all around, it seemed, and five is a conservative estimate. The males looked spectacular with their orange heads and throats, even without much sunlight. The Nashville Warbler was the first one I have seen since 2007. I was also totally dumbfounded to see a Red-breasted nuthatch on the side of a tree, and got a good look at it to be sure. The total species was 34, observed during a single hour. All in all, it was a truly splendid day of bird watching.

** - Species for which I was the only person in the Augusta County area to spot.

More migration updates

On Thursday afternoon I stopped at the Piney River trailhead once again, and spotted at least two Prairie Warblers, which I had seen there a weeks earlier. I also heard, and perhaps glimpsed, a White-eyed vireo, and I'm pretty sure I heard a Yellow-breasted chat. Here's a quick summary of other recent first-of-season sightings:

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 04 May 2009, 12: 35 AM

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Blog highlights have been compiled for the years 2010-2012 thus far, and eventually will be compiled for earlier years, back to 2002.


The "home made" blog organization system that I created was instituted on November 1, 2004, followed by several functional enhancements in subsequent years. I make no more than one blog post per day on any one category, so some posts may cover multiple news items or issues. Blog posts appear in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the chronological order in which the posts were originally made:

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