New Hope, Virginia 3/26/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

After two unsuccessful attempts to relocate the Lapland Longspur that I saw on March 8th just south of Elkton, Virginia, off of route 340, I had given up hope of getting a better photo this year of this rare and irregular visitor to Virginia. The photos that I took on the 8th were badly over-exposed due to sunlight being reflected by the snow. However, a report by Greg Moyers on the Shenandoah Valley birding listserver of two Lapland Longspurs, including a male Lapland Longspur in breeding plumage, just off Strickley Road near New Hope, Virginia, was enough of an incentive for me to make a another try at it. Greg stated that the two Longspurs were mixed in with some Horned Larks and an American Pipit, and the location sounded like the same place where Walt Childs and I had seen Horned Larks on March 8th. Once again, there had been a significant snowfall in the Shenandoah Valley, and I had learned that birds were mostly congregated along roadways and on isolated spots in fields where some of the snow had melted. I surmised that the persistent winter weather had kept the Longspurs in the area long enough for their breeding plumage to emerge.

When I arrived at the location along Strickley Road, I could see that a small part of the adjacent field had only partial snow cover, although all the other nearby fields were completely covered. It was mostly sunny, but windy and cold, and when I got out of my car I saw a flock of Horned Larks, American Pipits, and a few Eastern Meadowlarks, Starlings, Killdeers, and American Robins.


Horned Lark


Horned Lark


American Pipit


Killdeer


Eastern Meadowlark

In just a matter of a few minutes, dark clouds moved in, and it started to snow. At about the same time, a car pulled up, and Gabriel Mapel got out with his spotting scope. I walked down the road a bit, and there it was - a Lapland Longspur that looked to me like it was either a female, or more likely a male in non-breeding plumage because of its boldly contrasted coloring.


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur

I pointed out the Longspur to Gabriel, and then he spotted another possible female and the male Longspur in his scope, but just as quickly, they flew away with a flock of Horned Larks. Gabriel left as the snow started to fall even more, but I got back into my car to wait it out, hoping that the snow wouldn't last too long. After about 20 minutes, the snow stopped, and I was back out looking for the Longspurs. Sure enough, I spotted the male with some Horned Larks and then a female with a different group of Horned Larks.


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur

Although the female could have been a non-breeding plumage male, it looked more drably colored than the first Longspur. However, it is possible that it was the same bird and merely looked somewhat different because of the change in sunlight.


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur

When the female saw the male, it made its way slowly over to the male, and then they foraged together.


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs

I was lucky to get lots of photos of this species, and thought that the male in mostly breeding plumage was quite a neat bird to see.


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur



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