Rockingham County, VA 11/5/12

All photos are Marshall Faintich

For the past two days, birding reports from Rockingham County, Virginia, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours from where I live, have included two birds that would be new life birds for me - a Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow at Lake Shenandoah in Harrisonburg, and a Snow Bunting at the top of Reddish Knob in the Allegheny Mountains along the border with West Virginia. I asked Walt Childs if he wanted to go after them with me, and he gladly accepted.

We headed off at 8:30 this morning, first for Lake Shenandoah, because the temperatures were below freezing in the area, and there was still snow at the higher elevations from superstorm Sandy. We spent an hour at Lake Shenandoah, logged a dozen species, but no Nelson's. We made a quick stop at Lake Campbell where we saw lots of Canada Geese and a small flock of Lesser Scaup.


American Coot


Yellow-rumped Warbler

On the road up to Reddish Knob (elevation 4,397 feet), we stopped to look at a small flock of four to six Fox Sparrows.


Fox Sparrow

While we were out of the car watching the Fox Sparrows, a caravan of six or seven Jeep Wranglers sped by us filled with older teenagers - oh no! Were they going up to Reddish Knob to party? We had already missed our first target bird, and now would we miss our second one?

As we made the last turn before the Reddish Knob summit, we could see the Jeeps and hear the noise. But suddenly, a medium sized white bird with brown markings flew from the brush below where the jeeps had just parked, and it flew across the road in front of our car - it was the Snow Bunting - a new life bird for me. We parked at the summit, and the Jeepsters left after about 15 minutes.

Even though it was close to noon, the temperature at the summit was near freezing and the wind was blowing at about 30 to 35 mph. It was cold, but Walt and I stayed there for 1-1/2 hours waiting to see if the Snow Bunting would return so I could get a photo of it. We did not see any birds, not even any raptors soaring, even though we could see for many miles in all directions.

Just as we were getting ready to leave, a pair of birds flew into the trees near the summit. They were Pine Siskins! Seemed to be an unlikely place for them to visit.


View from the Reddish Knob Summit


Pine Siskin

On the way back down from the Reddish Knob summit, we stopped at several locations were we saw lots of Dark-eyed Juncos, several Golden-crowned Kinglets, and a few woodpeckers.


Golden-crowned Kinglet


Downy Woodpecker

We decided to head back to Lake Shenandoah to try for the Nelson's again. Once again we did not see it, but there was a lot of activity on the lake. Mallards were flying around, and we saw two species that we had not seen that morning - a Double-crested Cormorant, and a male Canvasback Duck [update: thanks to Greg M. for pointing out that the female in the photos is a Lesser Scaup]. The Canvasback was a new life bird for me!


Mallard


Mallards


Male Canvasback


Canvasback and female Lesser Scaup


Canvasback and female Lesser Scaup

Our last stop was Leonard's Pond just south of Harrisonburg, where all we saw was a flock of Canada Geese, but we stopped nearby when we saw a Red-tailed Hawk being chased by some Blue Jays.


Red-tailed Hawk


!#@%! Jays


Now where did they go?

Today's trip list (32 species):

Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Mallard
Canvasback
Ruddy Duck
Double-crested Cormorant
American Coot
Canada Goose
Lesser Scaup
Carolina Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee
Eastern Bluebird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pine Siskin
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Mourning Dove
Tufted Titmouse
Snow Bunting
Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
American Robin
Blue Jay
Starling
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
American Kestrel
American Crow
Starling


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