Augusta County, VA 7/29/12

All photos are Marshall Faintich


Walt Childs and I went birding in western Augusta County on the North River Loop of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. Although the end of July isn't a great time of year to go birding here, all of the stops were new locations for me, and we wanted to take advantage of the cooler temperature (upper 80s) and drier air.


North River Loop

We arrive at our first stop, Hone Quarry (#4 on the map) at 9:30. Although we didn't see too many birds there, a female Black-throat Blue Warbler was foraging in the shade of a tree, and I saw an unusual bird fly quickly into the low brushy vegetation at the edge of the lake. The bird was black with some red wing markings, and my thought was a Red-winged Blackbird. But as it slowed to enter the brush, it spread its tail feathers, and they all had white tips. I wasn't able to get any photos of the bird, and couldn't coax it out of the brush for another view. My best guess is that it was a RWBB, and the white tips were a leucistic feature. We also saw a small flock of Cedar Waxwings there, and the flock flew into a small tree and disappeared! A few minutes later, the flock emerged from the dense canopy and headed across the lake.


Female Black-throat Blue Warbler


Cedar Waxwing

We made a quick stop at Briery Lake (#5), but all we saw were some American Goldfinches. From there we headed to Flagpole Knob (#6) and Reddish Knob (#7).

The fire road up to Flagpole Knob was too rough for us to drive, so we walk up the fire road a bit, but didn't see very many birds. The road up to the peak of Reddish Knob was narrow, but paved all the way. At the summit we had a spectacular 360 degree view of Virginia and West Virginia. It was a bit hazy, but we could still see a great distance. We were told that on a clear day, one could see 90 miles. Other than a couple of Goldfinches, we didn't see many birds, and then we were visited by a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, a Turkey Vulture, and a couple of Ravens.


View from Reddish Knob


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk


Common Raven

One of our day's best birding stops was on the road down from Reddish Knob. We kept listening for birds as we drove, and occasionally stopped to take a look. At one point I heard multiple bird songs, and within about 100 feet along the road we saw multiple species. Highlights were a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers, a Chestnut-sided Warbler, a Blue-headed Vireo, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. The RB Nuthatch is a winter bird here, and seeing one during the summer months is unusual.


Hairy Woodpecker


Chestnut-sided Warbler


Blue-headed Vireo


Red-breasted Nuthatch

From there we headed down Tilghman Road toward Hearthstone Lake (#8). Along the way we saw a house that had 4 hummingbird feeders, and we counted 12 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds there at one time. The road off of Tilghman up to the Hearthstone Lake was impossible to drive without a four wheel drive vehicle with high clearance and off-road tires, so we passed on that stop.


Ruby-throated Hummingbirds


Ruby-throated Hummingbirds


Ruby-throated Hummingbirds


Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Our last birding stop of the trip was at the Natural Chimneys Regional Park (#10). There were a lot of people there on a Sunday afternoon, but we still managed to see a few birds, and ended our birding trip with 29 species.


Natural Chimneys Regional Park


Eastern Wood-Pewee

Today's list (29 species):

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-headed Vireo
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Northern Cardinal
Northern Mockingbird
American Crow
Common Raven
Red-winged Blackbird
Mourning Dove
Barn Swallow
Tree Swallow
Red-shouldered Hawk
Turkey Vulture
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Robin
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Chipping Sparrow
House Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Indigo Bunting
American Goldfinch
Cedar Waxwing
Ruby-throated Hummingbird



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