Birding in June: ducks, orioles, and falcons
Just like the month of May, the first day of June (a Monday) was quite memorable for me. Someone reported that two extremely rare ducks had been seen at Willow Lake, just south of the Augusta-Rockbridge County line near Raphine. So, I prevailed upon Jacqueline to make that one of our stops during a leisurely drive through the countryside, and I lucked out. We started out at McCormick's Mill, located nearby, and had nice views of an Eastern Kingbird, Great Blue Heron, and Warbling Vireo. Then we drove to Willow Lake and soon saw a Yellow Warbler, Cedar Waxwings, and a Green Heron. I didn't know exactly where the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were supposed to be, but a guy from Elkton named Mike Smith spotted them, next to the gazebo. (He had a spotting scope.) I could only get to within about 80 yards of the ducks, so the photos were mediocre but still clear enough for positive identification. Life bird #508!! Unfortunately, there is no indication that those birds flew north one mile into Augusta County, as it would have been the first-ever record of that species in this area.
The next day we went for another lengthy drive, this time into the Shenandoah National Park -- all the way from the south entrance to Route 33 east of Elkton. It was sunny at first, but then clouds began to impinge negatively upon the lighting conditions. We got our first good bird views at the Crimora Lake overlook, where an Indigo Bunting and Pine Warbler both responded to their species' songs being played back on the iPhone. Further along, at the Dundo picnic area, we saw two Eastern Wood Pewees fighting over territory, as well as an Indigo Bunting, Cedar Waxwings, Red-eyed Vireo, and Chipping Sparrows. Next, at the Powell Gap parking area, I heard and finally saw a Cerulean Warbler, which -- typically -- refused to cooperate with my picture-taking efforts. Finally, at the Hightop Mountain trail head (part of the Appalachian Trail), I had a great view of a young male American Redstart, an Ovenbird, a female Eastern Towhee, and glimpsed another Cerulean Warbler.
On Friday June 4th I paid a brief visit to Bell's Lane, and was handsomely rewarded. I saw both Orchard and Baltimore Orioles (the latter munching on mulberries in a tree), as well as a Great Crested Flycatcher and others listed below.
The next day Jacqueline and I went to Braley Pond, hoping to see Bald Eagles, but I settled for nice views of a Pine Warbler and a Wood Thrush. On June 8th I went back to Bell's Lane and was amused to see a Willow Flycatcher perched on a wire in close proximity to a Brown Thrasher. (Willow Flycatchers seem less common this year.) The other highlights were a Baltimore Oriole and Green Heron. I went all the way to the end of the extended portion adjacent to the golf course, where I heard but did not see a Prairie Warbler singing. Six days later, on June 14th, I returned to Bell's Lane. Once again I saw both Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, but the big highlight was seeing two adult male Pileated Woodpeckers right next to each other along the extended portion of Bell's Lane. I was surprised that there was no physical altercation between them! Once again I heard the Prairie Warbler singing.
On June 15th, for the first time this year, I went to the lowland meadow along Indian Mound Road, northeast of Staunton. I could hear a Common Yellowthroat singing, but only caught brief, distant glimpses of it. I did get a nice view of an Indigo Bunting, however, and on West Amber Road, which intersects Indian Mound Road, I saw an Orchard Oriole, Yellow Warbler, and Cedar Waxwings. That place is a veritable hot spot for birds, and should be monitored more often.
Returning from the Washington, D.C. area on June 17th, I decided to take the scenic route, entering the Shenandoah National Park via Route 211 east of Luray. My first stop was at the parking lot where the Panorama restaurant used to be, adjacent to Route 211. (It had been closed for many years, but I didn't realize that it has been completely demolished.) Barn Swallows were zooming all around, some at very low level. I had brief views of some American Goldfinches, but not much else. Then I stopped on the south side of the tunnel adjacent to the peak known as Mary's Rock. There I saw Eastern Phoebes and some kind of warbler. At the Stony Man overlook I had nice looks at a Chipping Sparrow and Indigo Bunting, but the highlight of the day was at the Timber Hollow overlook. There I spotted a young Peregrine Falcon soaring and diving at high speed, but it soon departed the area. That is a rare species, and I was awestruck. I also was lucky to see a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the same overlook. Soon thereafter I stopped at the the Franklin Cliffs overlook, where I was told that the Peregrine Falcon restoration project is located. That was time well spent! Later in the day I stopped at Big Meadows and one or two overlooks farther south, where I finally saw my first Chestnut-sided Warbler of the year. I was running late, so decided to bypass Pocosin Cabin trail, one of the premier birding hot spots in the region, and headed home via Route 33.
One week later, on June 24th, I hiked along the Madison Run trail, my first time there since May 31st last year, I believe. I had a few nice views, especially of a Louisiana Waterthrush and Acadian Flycatcher, but it was only an average day overall.
My final bird outing of the month was on the 26th of June, when I hiked about a mile north from the Confederate Breastworks along the Shenandoah Mountain trail. Among the highlights were a Scarlet Tanager (probable year-old male), Black-throated Green Warbler, and Worm-eating Warbler. I saw several Pine Warblers, but had a hard time getting a good photo of them. Perhaps the most notable sighting was of a young Yellow-rumped Warbler, which I only identified after looking at the image on my camera screen a few minutes later. They are rare breeders in the highlands of Virginia, the southern edge of their summer range.
(NOTE: There were no Augusta Bird Club field trips in June.) More montages and photos of individual birds can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological page.