Western Augusta County, VA 5/2/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Walt Childs and I headed west for the second of our three day warbler hunt. Our first stop was at the Augusta Springs Wetlands. We were disappointed as there were not a lot of birds there, but we did have a few highlights. I was walking about 50 feet in front of Walt when I looked back and saw him signalling me. He had spotted a Veery in the dense brush along a small creek. That would have been a new life bird for me, but by the time I got there and looked where Walt was pointing, the Veery had turned a corner and had jumped into the creek. All I could see was water being splashed where the Veery was taking a quick bath, and I could not see the bird - no new lifer for me - drats!

A short way down the trail we saw a few birds that included a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a White-eyed Vireo, and a possible Northern Parula.


Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Then I spotted an unusual humming bird perched atop a short tree. Although the only hummingbird that we should have here is a Ruby-throated, with the exception of an occasional Rufous-sided, this hummingbird did not look like a Ruby-throated to me. My first impression was that this bird was a bit stockier that a Ruby-throated. Its bill looked too short for a Ruby-throated, and looked like the short bill of an Anna's Hummingbird. Although it did have a deeply notched tail like a Ruby-throated, it wingtips extended to the end of its tail like that of a Costa's Hummingbird.

Its dark gorget (throat) was flared like that of an Anna's Hummingbird or Costa's Hummingbird, and a white area can be seen between the side of the gorget and the dark nape feathers. I have never seen a gap like this on a Ruby-throated, but this white area is a feature on Anna's and Costa's.

Finally, the same dark feathers in its gorget extended onto its crown and above its eye like that of a Anna's or Costa's. However, Virginia is far from the usual range where Anna's and Costa's Hummingbirds are usually found. I posted lots of photos of this hummingbird two days ago, and have received a few responses. One of the hummingbird experts says that it was a Ruby-throated while another thinks it was a Costa's. Given the likelihood that a Costa's would not be anywhere near Virginia, I will assume that it was a Ruby-throated unless I hear overwhelming evidence to the contrary.



We then headed a short way south to Hite Hollow Road. This was a narrow, gravel road that wound its way up and over the mountain. We stopped whenever we heard birds singing. Although we were once again disappointed with the number of birds, we did see a few really good birds. At our first stop, there was a magnificently colored Scarlet Tanager.


Scarlet Tanager


Scarlet Tanager


Scarlet Tanager


Scarlet Tanager

The most common bird species we saw along the way was Red-eyed Vireo.


Red-eyed Vireo

As we approached the top of the mountain, we had a fantastic view of the valley below, and then heard a lot of singing birds. This was the busiest stop along the way, where we saw Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos, a Black-capped Chickadee, Pine and Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.


Blue-headed Vireo


Black-capped Chickadee


Yellow-rumped Warbler


Pine Warbler


Pine Warbler


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

A short distance past the summit we stopped at another spot where there was significant avian activity. More Red-eyed Vireos, an American Redstart, and a Worm-eating Warbler were moving among the trees.


American Redstart


Worm-eating Warbler

We heard a few isolated birds the rest of the way down, but were confident that they were Redstarts, Red-eyed Vireos, and Worm-eating Warblers, so we didn't stop to search for them. At the bottom of the mountain, we turned north onto Cold Springs Road. We saw or heard very few birds there, but did encounter six Wild Turkeys - a group of four and two single birds.


Wild Turkey

We turned back east at the Old Parkersburg Turnpike, and once again only a few birds were active, but we did stop to get some good close-up views of a Black and White Warbler, our fifth warbler of the day.


Black and White Warbler


Black and White Warbler


Black and White Warbler


Black and White Warbler

We headed home via Swoope, and as soon as Walt mentioned that we should look for the Bald Eagle and its nest, there it was - a Bald Eagle perched on the other side of a field, and the nest about 100 yards behind it. It looked like there were two or three young eagles in the nest.


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagle nest

We drove through the Swoope area, spotting a distant Bobolink, and a Barn Swallow on a fence post next to the car. The Barn Swallow appeared to have an itch that was bothersome. We ended the trip with 43 species.


Bobolink


Barn Swallow


Barn Swallow


Barn Swallow



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