Dutch Gap, VA 12/3/12

All photos are Marshall Faintich

With reports of an American Bittern at the Dutch Gap conservation area just south of Richmond, Virginia, Walt Childs and I headed there with plans to stop at Lake Anna and Zion Crossroads on the way home.

We arrived at Dutch Gap around 11:00, and there's about a mile long road to the entrance that is bounded on one side by a fence and a hill leading up to a reservoir or large retention pond, and on the other side by a very large freshwater marshy area with a couple of small parking areas and observation platforms.

As we started driving along the road, a very large swan flew in front of us and over the hill and out of sight. We could only see its silhouette against the sky, but from its size and very long neck we guessed that it was a Mute Swan. The American Bittern had been reported several times in the marshy area between the two viewing platforms, so we parked at the first one and walked along the road, checking as much of the weeded area as we could.

All of a sudden the American Bittern flew up from close to the road, and landed in some dense marsh vegetation. My camera was not set for birds in flight, but I was able to get a few decent photos of it - a new life bird for me! Walt and I spent more than an hour along this road, and saw 37 avian species before even entering Dutch Gap. Although we got some some quick glimpses of the Bittern during this hour, and one view of it on the way out, none of them were long enough or of a clear enough view to get a photo of it standing in the weeds.

Some of the birds we saw very interesting - colorful ducks, the first reddish morph Savannah Sparrow for me, and we both saw and heard a Marsh Wren, but I couldn't get a photo of it - my second life bird of the morning!

Once inside Dutch Gap, we added another eight species, including a pair of Bald Eagles perched on the bank across the river. This is the fourth time since November 18 that I have seen a Bald Eagle, and all four times there have been two of them together.


American Bittern


American Bittern


American Bittern


American Coot


American Wigeons


Bald Eagles


Cooper's Hawk


Double-crested Cormorants


Gadwall


Gadwall


Gadwall


Gadwall


Gadwall


Hermit Thrush


Lesser Scaup


Mallards


Mallard


Northern Shoveler


Northern Shovelers


Northern Shoveler


Ruby-crowned Kinglet


Ring-billed Gull


Ring-billed Gull


Ring-necked Ducks


Savannah Sparrow


Reddish morph Savannah Sparrow


Reddish morph Savannah Sparrow


Yellow-rumped Warbler


Eastern Painted Turtles

We spent so much time at Dutch Gap that we scrubbed Lake Anna from today's trip, and headed to Zion Crossroads (Bracketts Farm area) to look for possible Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers. Along the way we saw a Red-tailed Hawk, but all we saw at Zion Crossroads were a few Northern Harriers and some other smaller birds we had already seen today.


Northern Harrier

Today's list (47 species):

Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Mallard
Gadwall
Lesser Scaup
Ring-necked Duck
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Cooper's Hawk
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Swamp Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Brown-headed Cowbird



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