Central Virginia 8/26/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Shenandoah Valley

Some birding days start out poorly and end as a great day. Today was such a day.

American Golden- and Black-bellied Plovers have been reported for the past couple of days on a sod farm field just south of Elkton, Virginia. Walt Childs and I headed there in the morning to look for them, but all we saw in that field were Killdeers, a Spotted Sandpiper, a couple of Northern Mockingbirds, and a small flock of Starlings. We saw a few common birds along the river such as Chickadees and Woodpeckers.


Killdeers

We decided to try our luck up at Pocasin Cabin off the Skyline Drive. That wasn't 'birdy' at all - a few Chickadees, Eastern Wood-Pewees and Phoebes, a Wild Turkey, a Red-eyed Vireo, and a Blue-headed Vireo.


Red-eyed Vireo


Blue-headed Vireo

We decided to try the sod farm again - no luck. Then we went to the JMU Arboretum, and saw only a few common birds there. We got a quick look at a warbler with a yellow breast and wing bars, but not a good enough look to identify the species. Today's briding was getting to be a bit depressing. We then went to Leonard's Pond. There were two Canada Geese, and more Killdeers.


Killdeers

It was now mid-afternoon, and birding was really getting even slower. We pulled into the parking lot of the Shenadoah Valley Regional Airport and saw more Killdeers on the grassy area next to the parking lot. And then I saw bird that I could not identify. I lowered my car window and starting taking photos while Walt hurried to try to find what it was in his Sibley's bird guide. When I got out of the car to try to get a better frontal photo of it, the mystery bird flew over a berm and out of sight.


Mystery Bird


Mystery Bird


Mystery Bird


Mystery Bird


Mystery Bird


Mystery Bird


Mystery Bird


Mystery Bird

Did you figure out what it was? My first guess was a juvenile Pipit. I was close, but wrong. I walked over the berm and saw the mystery bird with a small flock of other birds, and then I knew what it was.


Mystery Bird


Papa Horned Lark


Mama Horned Lark and junior

Both Walt and I thought that Horned Larks were winter birds here, but they are actually here all year. We learned something new today.

Rockfish Valley Trail

After an early dinner, I went over to the Rockfish Valley Trail to look for Common Nighthawks. They were reported at dusk yesterday on both sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I had never seen one. I got to the trail a little before 6:00 p.m., and started on the downstream trail. There were lots of birds looking for dinner.


Field Sparrow


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

There were lots of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the south side of the bog area - a good place to see them this time of year. A Red-tailed Hawk was perched farther down the Glenthorne Loop trail.


Ruby-throated Hummingbird


Red-tailed Hawk

I looked up at the top of the highest branch of a dead tree just south of the big area, and yes - an Olive-sided Flycatcher. Only my sixth sighting on the trail (previously in May 2008, August 2008, August 2010, May 2011, and September 2012).


Olive-sided Flycatcher


Olive-sided Flycatcher


Olive-sided Flycatcher


Olive-sided Flycatcher


Olive-sided Flycatcher


Olive-sided Flycatcher


Olive-sided Flycatcher


Olive-sided Flycatcher

Now I was having a good day - the juvenile Horned Lark and an Olive-sided Flycatcher. But on the way back to my car, three Common Nighthawks flew northeast over the downstream trail - my new life bird #516. And then another dozen or so followed the first three night hawks.


Common Nighthawk


Common Nighthawk


Common Nighthawk


Common Nighthawk


Common Nighthawk


Common Nighthawk

Wow!



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