Birding from January through March
In my continuing effort to get caught up on blogging about birding (and other subjects), here is another brief summary of my outdoor nature activities during the first three months of this year. As before, I merely list dates and places when noteworthy sightings were made; long-hand prose is used for field trips and other significant outings.
- Jan. 1: Bell's Lane -- Bald Eagles; mating pair!
- Jan. 11: Highland & Bath Counties -- Bald Eagles, Gr. White-fronted Geese
- Jan. 20: Bell's Lane -- Short-eared Owls, Northern Harrier
- Jan. 25: Mill Place & Bell's Lane -- Hooded Mergansers, Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier
On Saturday, January 11, Allen Larner led the Augusta Bird Club's annual winter field trip to Highland County, and I was one of the three others who participated. Three Golden Eagles were seen early on, and two more later, as well as two Bald Eagles. It wasn't very active, though, so around noon we decided to head south from Monterrey. Soon after crossing into Bath County, a wide variety of ducks and geese were seen at a pond, most notably a pair of Greater White-fronted Geese. That species has rarely if ever been seen in Bath County. The final destination was Lake Moomaw, where a Common Loon, Horned Grebes, and several Red Bats were seen.
Birding in February
February began and ended with sightings of Bald Eagles during excursions made by Jacqueline and me. At the nest in Swoope, the Bald Eagle nest presumably yielded one or two offspring. The only really significant bird outing was the Great Backyard Bird Count (on the 15th), when I finally got a decent photo of a Short-eared Owl, one of three I saw.
- Feb. 1: Swoope & Augusta Springs -- American Kestrel, Bald Eagle (at nest), Brown Creeper
- Feb. 4: Mill Place & Bell's Lane -- Red-tailed Hawk, E. Meadowlark, Hooded Mergansers
- Feb. 15: N. Staunton & Bell's Lane -- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Short-eared Owls
- Feb. 29: Potomac River at Rt. 301 bridge -- Bald Eagles
Birding in March
March started off with a real bang, as I was among a select group of birders invited to to a private residence where a Scott's Oriole had been seen for a few weeks. I was a bit skeptical, since that bird normally ranges in Mexico and Texas, but after a while, I saw the bird with my own eyes -- the first one ever for me! (See my Life bird list.) The bird feeders at the residence were busy with American Goldfinches, House Finches, various woodpeckers, and a Red-tailed Hawk overhead.
- Mar. 1: Swoope -- Scott's Oriole
- Mar. 6: Bell's Lane -- Northern Harriers, Short-eared Owls (also a Red Fox!)
- Mar. 9: Bell's Lane -- Tree Swallow*, E. Phoebe*, Brown-headed Cowbirds*
- Mar. 14: Murphy Deming Trail -- Red-shouldered Hawk, Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Mar. 20: Verona & Silver Lake/Dayton -- Blue-winged Teals, Lesser Scaups, Buffleheads
- Mar. 24: Bell's Lane -- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Mar. 25: Staunton -- Sharp-shinned Hawk
- Mar. 27: Cowbane Prairie, Stuarts Draft, & Staunton -- Sharp-shinned Hawk, C. Grackles*
- Mar. 28: Braley Pond (ABC) & Chimney Hollow -- Winter Wren, La. Waterthrush*, E. Phoebe*, BH Vireo*, Pine Warbler*
- Mar. 29: Madison Run, Bell's Lane -- Pine Warbler, La. Waterthrush,
As the month progressed, more early spring migrants arrived. I recorded three first-of-year birds on March 9 and several more toward the end of the month. On March 14 I made my first real hike along the Murphy Deming Trail in Fishersville, adjacent to the Murphy Deming School of Health, which is associated with Mary Baldwin University and Augusta Health. There is a new, rapidly growing community of condominiums at the top of the hill, with a very nice view of the area. I had a very good view of a Red-shouldered Hawk in a nearby tree, and I heard (but didn't see) an E. Towhee for the first time this year.
On Saturday, March 28, I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Braley Pond, with two other participants. It was two weeks after the covid-19 emergency measures went into effect, and each person drove separately to the destination, adhering to the "social distancing" guidelines. The temperature was mild but skies were overcast with a hint of lingering mist. Right from the start, we heard two early-arriving migratory species singing near the parking area: Pine Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos. Also, two Eastern Phoebes were building a nest under the kiosk. After setting off on the trails, we saw Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Winter Wrens, Belted Kingfishers, and more Pine Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos as we hiked a short way upstream from the pond. We ended the trip with 20 species total, not including the Brown Creeper that Debbie Pugh saw after returning in the afternoon, and not including an early-arriving Louisiana Waterthrush at Chimney Hollow and other birds at Dowell's Draft. (Text from the article I wrote for the April bird club newsletter.)
One day later (Sunday the 29th) Jacqueline and I went hiking along the Madison Run road on the western edge of the Shenandoah National Park, and we saw two of the early migrants that I had seen the day before.