We Birded the Shenandoah Valley!
I’m posting this late but still wanted to share with you the field trip report from last weekend. The photo here is of an immature Red-Shouldered Hawk, coping with the cold windy day:
On Sunday, Dec. 7, Laura Weidner & Joe Coleman, assisted by Liam McGranaghan in the morning, led an all-day ANS/LWC 17-person field trip to Clarke Co. The group met at Snicker’s Gap at 9 am and returned there about 4:30 pm. Since the winds were as horrible as Joan Boudreau & Bob Abrams said in their hawkwatch post we got off the mountain as quickly as possible and spent much of the day in relatively-sheltered places. As a result we did miss some of the more int’g birds Joan & Bob reported as well as some of the ones we found while scouting on Friday & Sat.
Our best bird was a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE spotted by Laura in a farm field a little south & east of Blandy. It was on the north side of Rte 622 right after we turned off of Ed Lee Rd (Rte 626?). We watched it hunt and perch until we were ready to move on. We also found all seven woodpecker species including a small group (four or five) of RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS behind Blandy in a woodlot north of Rte 628 where it intersects with Ed Lee Rd (Rte 626?). There was also a BROWN CREEPER in the same area.
We also found at least four NORTHERN HARRIERS, one on Blandy and three south & east of Blandy. Three of the Harriers were Gray Ghosts and one was a hatch-year bird. On Friday there were 7 AMERICAN KESTRELS, on Sat. 2, and on Sunday four. We saw at least a dozen RED-TAILED HAWKS; interestingly enough they were frequently in groups of two or even three (twice we saw three birds perched close together).
While scouting on Saturday morning (a much nicer day because of the lack of wind) there were 8 NORTHERN BOBWHITES, an AMERICAN TREE SPARROW, and a couple of SWAMP & WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS as well as a number of Field and Song Sparrows in the wetlands and restored meadow that is right in front of Blandy’s observation tower. There was almost nothing in that area on Sunday (maybe because of the winds …). On Sat. behind Blandy along Rte 628 there was a COOPER’S HAWK as well as a very mangy Red Fox in pretty bad shape (I had to stop the car to let it cross the road). Its irritated skin showed through its wispy fur in several places.
On Sunday with the exception of Blandy most of our birding was done from the cars or in places well-sheltered from the wind. Not surprisingly the birds were also in the sheltered locations. The two BALD EAGLES we saw over the river on Sunday both rocked like Turkey Vultures in the wind. Two COMMON RAVENS playfully flew over the river in the same area. And shortly after that we saw a flock of at least 50 BLUEBIRDS.
There were a fair number of geese, mallards, Great Blue Herons, and Belted Kingfishers on the Shenandoah River but nothing else in the way of waterfowl with the exception of one PIED-BILLED GREBE who kept slipping all but his head below the water.
We did not see any SNOWY OWLS though many of the fields looked promising; nor did we find any RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES (there were at least four of them at Blandy back in Nov.), PURPLE FINCHES, or PINE SISKINS.
We had a total of 45 species of birds for the day.