No Owls, but Plenty of Other Birds at Banshee
Sixteen birders joined Michael Sciortino and Carol Sotilli for the February walk at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve. We were excited to have a few youngsters with us as well and some out-of-towners from North Carolina.
We were fortunate to have very nice weather for an early February day. We had plenty of sun and the wind was mild after days of harsh conditions. We timed it right. After the previous day’s rain we expected pretty soggy conditions on the trails especially those in the bottomlands by Goose Creek. For that reason the group stayed along the tree line adjacent to the fields to avoid the muddy conditions and stay in the sun. The day started in the low 30s but warmed up nicely into the low 40s.
The birding activity started off pretty slowly but picked up as the weather warmed. Early on we did see three or four large flocks of Canada Geese flying south along the Goose Creek. We estimated upwards of 300 individuals. One Red-tailed Hawk saw us coming and quickly departed for another perch close by only to take to the sky shortly thereafter.
We had good looks of Yellow-rumped Warblers hanging out with a few Tufted Titmice on the Raspberry Trail. We also spent a considerable amount of time tracking a White-breasted Nuthatch that seemed just as interested in us as we were in it.
American and Fish Crows were in abundance throughout the walk as were the Song and White-throated Sparrows. Several members of the group heard a lone Catbird calling from the brush in the field off of the Raspberry Trail. As we approached the pond area we were treated by a Common Merganser flyover with nine individuals heading north. Also near the pond area we witnessed increased activity in the warming sky as Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Coopers Hawks, and Bald Eagles enjoyed the thermals.
We could not resist the urge to swing by the silos to look for evidence of the Barn Owl. To our disappointment, we saw no such evidence of pellets or recent white wash. Two Turkey Vultures were eyeing us from atop the silo though and promptly flew off.
We finished the day with good views of our only Red-bellied Woodpecker close-up sighting. We had heard them throughout the walk but could not get our eyes on one. That was a treat for many of our birders. There was considerable conversation whether or not the woodpecker was a male or a female.
For a complete list of our bird sightings, please see our e-Bird record at https://ebird.org/checklist/S64237820
Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy schedules three regular bird walks most months, one at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship on the fourth Saturday of the month except in December, one at the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve on the second Saturday of the month, and one at Bles Park on the third Sunday of the month. These are free events, and everyone is welcome at these walks.