Central Virginia 3/8/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Augusta and Rockingham Counties

There were reports of a Lapland Longspur just south of Elkton, Virginia on a gravel drive off of route 340, and a Snow Bunting near New Hope, Virginia. I had previously seen, but not photographed, a Snow Bunting, but the Longspur would be a new life bird for me. The northern part of the Shenandoah Valley had between 10 and 20 inches of snow on Wednesday, and although most of the snow at lower elevations had melted here in the Rockfish Valley, there still was fairly consistent snow cover on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Birds were mostly congregated along roadways where most of the snow had melted.

Walt Childs and I headed off to search for the Lapland Longspur, and stopped at a couple of places along route 340 where we saw American Pipits and a few other species. As soon as we pulled onto the gravel drive where the Lapland Longspur had been reported the day before, there it was, sitting about 10 feet away from me on top of a pile of snow - the perfect photo op.

I unrolled mr car window, stopped the engine, and took a few photos before it flew off and across the road. I didn't realize that I had left my camera settings where they were when I had just photographed some Pipits in a shaded area, and the Longspur photos were terribly overexposed. I started to get out of the car to take some more photos of the Longspur after adjusting my camera settings, but a car came up the gravel drive from the other direction, and scared the Longspur and a small flock of Horned Larks into flight and they were gone. I did get my life bird #486, and my 23rd life bird of 2013, but the photos were only good enough to verify that it was the Lapland Longspur.

Walt and I stayed there for about 45 minutes to see if it would return. It was cold and very windy. Several times, flocks of Horned Larks, American Pipits, and Mourning Doves would land on the gravel drive or on route 340, and then take off again when a car or truck sped by. A Savannah Sparrow stayed near my car. But no Longspur. We decided to circle around behind the Merck plant where we saw White-throated and Song Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and a Red-tailed Hawk, and then we returned to the gravel drive again, but all we saw were the same birds there.


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


American Pipit


American Pipit


American Pipit


American Pipit


Horned Larks


Horned Larks


Horned Larks


Horned Lark


Horned Lark


Horned Lark


Horned Lark


Horned Lark


Savannah Sparrow

After a quick lunch in Elkton, we stopped at the gravel drive for one last look for the Longspur on our way to New Hope. All we saw were the Horned Larks, the Savannah Sparrow, and one American Pipit. It was so cold and windy that I didn't want to stay there very long. However, after processing my photos of the Horned Larks from this stop, I could see that the Lapland Longspur was in the grasses near the Horned Larks, but I had missed seeing it when were there after lunch.


Lapland Longspur and Horned Lark


Lapland Longspur and Horned Larks


Lapland Longspur and Horned Lark

We saw more Horned Larks and a very boldly colored Savannah Sparrow near New Hope, but we didn't see the Snow Bunting.


Savannah Sparrow


Savannah Sparrow



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