Stuart's Draft, VA 1/6/12

All photos are Marshall Faintich


Reports of a Lark Sparrow in the Stuart's Draft, VA area, combined with warm temperatures and sunny skies were all that was needed to get me to make a trip over the Blue Ridge mountains. Lark Sparrows are rare in the eastern United States, with only 22 records of this species in this part of Virginia since 1935.

When I arrived at the small pond off of Churchman's Mill Road around 9:30 this morning, there were no sparrows to be seen. Perhaps the three cats sitting in the field about 100 feet from the pond were a deterrent. There were a few Starlings and a noisy Red-bellied Woodpecker nearby, but I waited aroound and soon saw some sparrows fly to the brush behind the pond. They all appeared to be Song Sparrows, and then I was surprised to see a Savannah Sparrow as well, as they are rare here in the winter.


Song Sparrow


Song Sparrow


Savannah Sparrow

After about 30 minutes, there was still no Lark Sparrow to be seen, but as a last resort before I left, I took out my Ipod Touch, brought up Lark Sparrow in Sibley's birding app, and played the Lark Sparrow's recorded song. Within a few seconds, the Lark Sparrow appeared on a branch in the brush and starting singing back. I must say that it was one of the most melodious bird songs I have ever heard.


Lark Sparrow


Lark Sparrow


Lark Sparrow


Lark Sparrow

After driving around the farming area there looking unsuccessfully for other field birds, I headed over to the Hall School Road area where last month I saw Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, and a Merlin. I didn't see much on Hall School Road, so I headed down Lipscomb Road, and sure enough, the same Red-tailed Hawk was sitting on top of the same dead tree as the last two times I was there, and it took off and soared overhead.


Red-tailed Hawk


Red-tailed Hawk

When I got back to Hall School Road, there were a few Turkey Vultures, and then I saw a high flying Cooper's Hawk chasing the vultures away.


Cooper's Hawk and Turkey Vulture


Cooper's Hawk


Cooper's Hawk


Cooper's Hawk


Cooper's Hawk


Cooper's Hawk

Wow! What a morning, but it was not over yet. I drove down Wayne Road, and saw another Savannah Sparrow by the side of the road, and then saw two more Red-tailed Hawks and two American Kestrels. These hawks and the kestrels were kiting in the strong southwest winds as they hunted for food in the fields. After taking lots of photos, I headed back, and saw another kestrel sitting on a power line on Hall School Road. Not a bad birding day!


Savannah Sparrow


Red-tailed Hawk


Red-tailed Hawk


Red-tailed Hawk


American Kestrel


American Kestrel


American Kestrel


American Kestrel


American Kestrel


American Kestrel



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