Central Virginia 2/9-12/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Stoney Creek 2/9/13

I took a short hike from my house this afternoon, but didn't see very much. The highlight was capturing a photo of an Eastern Phoebe just as it opened its mouth to swallow a fly that it had caught moments earlier.


Eastern Phoebe

Crozet, VA 2/10/13

Pete Myers had posted photos of a Cackling Goose he had taken on 2/9/13 at Beaver Creek Lake, so I headed over there to see if I could find it. A large flock of Canada Geese was there, and one of them was smaller than the others, but I don't think it was a Cackling. The immature Tundra Swan, a feral Swan Goose, some Ruddy Ducks, and the four Common Goldeneyes were still there.


Canada Geese


Immature Tundra Swan


Immature Tundra Swan


Immature Tundra Swan


Common Goldeneyes


Common Goldeneyes

On the way home I stopped at the ponds at Old Trail and King Family Vineyards, saw a few ducks, a Red-tailed Hawk, and a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.


Female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Swoope, VA 2/11/13

There have been postings of four or five Short-eared Owls near the intersection of Cattlemen and Livik Roads in the Swoope area of Augusta County. I got some distant photos of this species last year near Zion Crossroads, and got a close-up look but no photo of the Hawaiian subspecies in 2009 while driving up to the top of Haleakala volcano on Maui, but really want to get some good photos of this owl. Reports of them in Swoope put the owls only about 100 feet away from the road. Most of the sightings there were at dusk, but there was a report of them at 10:00 a.m.yesterday under cloudy skies.

It had rained all night and was still drizzling this morning, so I headed over to Swoope and arrived at 11:30 just as the drizzle was moving out of the area. I hoped that the owls may have hunkered down during the night and were waiting for the rain to stop to forage for breakfast. The skies were overcast all day, with a few breaks of only light cloud cover. Although the temperature climbed to 60 degrees in the afternoon, consistent strong winds made it feel a lot colder, and very few birds were out and about.


Rainbow over Swoope

I saw a couple of Red-shouldered Hawks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and a few American Kestrels. I had planned to stay only a couple of hours as there really was very little to see. As I was just about ready to leave, I saw a Crow harassing two juvenile/female Northern Harriers. Yesterday's SE Owl report started with juvenile/female Northern Harriers, followed by an adult male "Gray Ghost" Northern Harrier, and then the SE Owls appeared. I hoped for a repeat performance while I was there.


Juvenile/female Northern Harriers and Crow

About 30 minutes later, I saw the adult male Northern Harrier - this is the third "Gray Ghost" that I have seen since December, after searching for one for three years, and the second one was seen the next day after seeing the first one.


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier

Okay, now bring on the SE Owls! After about an hour, one of the first two Northern Harriers appeared, and looked like it was going after something to eat in the field, but it grabbed some long strands of vegetation, presumably for its nest. And then the other Northen Harrier returned to the same fields


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier

Now it was mid-afternoon, still overcast and chilly, and I decided to stay there until 5:00 p.m. to see if the SE Owls would show. All I saw were a few more Kestrels, a Bald Eagle, another Red-tailed Hawk, and another Harrier. By 5:00 I had enough, it was getting dark, and I left - at least I got some decent "Gray Ghost" photos.


Bald Eagle


Female American Kestrel


Female American Kestrel

Southern Nelson and Albemarle Counties 2/12/13

Walt Childs and I had already planned to go birding today, but hadn't decided where. When Walt arrive at my house, I said let's go anywhere but Swoope. Five and one-half hours there yesterday was enough for a few days. I had a stop to make at Buteo Books in Shipman, VA (Allen Hale), and Walt had lent Allen a couple of books that needed to be picked up, so we went there first. Allen asked if I had an Evening Grosbeak photo taken in Nelson County, and when I told him that it would be a new life bird species for me, he told us that some folks in Shipman had a pair of females coming to their feeder, and would we like for him to call them to see if Walt and I could stop by their place. We jumped at the chance, and when we got there, the owners welcomed us to their home, but asked that if any other birds wanted to stop by, they should contact Allen Hale. Evening Grosbeaks are rare this far south in the central and eastern United States.

Walt went inside with them, and I parked myself on their deck about 10 feet from their feeder and water station. I couldn't believe all the Pine Siskens there - must have been close to 50 of them, and they were all over the feeder, and eating seed on the deck floor and deck railing about 5 feet away from me. I didn't keep track of how long I waited there, but it must have been at least 30 minutes, during which time I logged a dozen avian species. I was amazed at the size difference between the Siskins and a female Purple Finch - the Finch is described in guides as being only one inch longer than a Siskin, but it looked enormous in comparison.


Pine Siskins


Pine Siskins


Pine Siskin


Male Purple Finch


Female Purple Finch and Pine Siskin

And then success! One of the female Evening Grosbeaks landed in a tree about ten feet away from me, hopped to second tree, and then to the water bowl. It stayed there for a few minutes while I got almost 100 photos of it before it flew away.


Female Evening Grosbeak


Female Evening Grosbeak


Female Evening Grosbeak


Female Evening Grosbeak


Female Evening Grosbeak


Female Evening Grosbeak


Female Evening Grosbeak


Female Evening Grosbeak


Female Evening Grosbeak

From there, Walt and I headed over to the James River WMA, but all we saw there was a small hawk - either a Cooper's or a Sharp-shinned, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Great Blue Heron, and a few White-throated Sparrows. This was my third visit there, and birding has been poor each time, so the JRWMA is off my birding list unless I hear glowing reports from there. Next stop was Lake Nelson where we saw a few Ruddy Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, Killdeers, and a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks.

We decided to take the James River Road up to Langehorne Road to look for the possible Lapland Longspur that was reported along with a flock of Horned Larks and Killdeers. Along the way, we stopped when I saw another "Gray Ghost." Once again, the second one two days in a row. A brightly colored Eastern Meadowlark watched as I took photos of the Harrier, and we saw another Red-tailed Hawk. When we got to the field on Langhorne Road, all we saw were a lot of Killdeers, and Walt counted 48 of them.


Male Northern Harrier


Male Northern Harrier


Eastern Meadowlark


Red-tailed Hawk


Killdeers



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