Dutch Gap, VA 4/26/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Walt Childs and I made the two-hour, 120 mile drive to the Dutch Gap Conservation Area just south of Richmond, Virginia. Our target bird was the beautiful Prothonotary Warbler, and whatever else might turn up there. Dutch Gap always seems to be a great place to go birding, and there was an air of excitement as to what we might find once we got there, although we were careful not to set our expectations too high ahead of time. We had seen Prothonotary Warblers there in the past, but I really wanted to get some better photos.

Once we arrived there, we stopped at the two platforms that overlook the large marshy area on the way to the parking lot. This marsh is usually filled with ducks and other waterfowl, but the marsh vegetation was so thick that we could barely see any bare water. Canada Geese were tending to their goslings, and an Osprey was gathering nesting materials. A Northern Mockingbird was singing in the trees along the road.


Canada Geese


Osprey


Northern Mockingbird

We saw several boldy colored male Red-winged Blackbirds, and then I spotted a female Red-winged Blackbird that grabbed my attention. I have seen females of this species with a little rufous in their shoulders, but this one had bright red shoulder coverts similar to that of a male.


Female Red-winged Blackbird

And then a slender, brown and white bird flew from the trees near the second platform and settled in a tree between the two platforms. Walt said that it looked like a Cuckoo to him, so I hiked down the road to look for it. There it was - a Black-billed Cuckoo! Not only are these hard to find, this species wasn't even listed on the Dutch Gap bird list. The red orbital eye-ring and short gray bill are key field marks.


Black-billed Cuckoo


Black-billed Cuckoo


Black-billed Cuckoo


Black-billed Cuckoo


Black-billed Cuckoo

What a start! As we hiked along the trails, we saw lots of birds, and ended up with 46 species, including our First of Year (in Virginia) Gray Catbird, Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, and Prothonotary Warbler.


Blue Grosbeak


Eastern Bluebird


Great Blue Heron


Northern Cardinal


Pine Warbler


Savannah Sparrow


White-throated Sparrow


White-throated Sparrow


White-eyed Vireo


White-eyed Vireo


Osprey


Northern Rough-winged Swallow


Northern Rough-winged Swallow

We saw at least six Prothonotary Warblers and heard at least a half-dozen more. What a treat and what a great place to go birding!


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler


Prothonotary Warbler



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