Dutch Gap, VA 11/29/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

During the past few days, there have been reports of a Snowy Owl in the Dutch Gap Conservationa Area south of Richmond, and in Rockingham County in the Shenandoah Valley. In additon to the Rockingham report, there had been a report of a Northern Goshawk in neighboring Highland County. Both species would be life birds for me, and it wasn't until 8:30 this morning that Walt Childs and I decided where to go. Both trips were two hour drives in each direction. We finally decided on Dutch Gap, as finding either of the target birds would be sheer luck, and we would probably see more species of birds at Dutch Gap.

Although the Snowy Owl wasn't located, we did end up with 51 species for the trip, including 49 at Dutch Gap, a flock of Wild Turkeys on the trip there, and a Red-tailed Hawk on the return trip. As soon as we got to the road into Dutch Gap, we stopped and birded the long marsh area for more than an hour. A Tundra Swan flew overhead as we were getting out of the car. There were lots of ducks, gulls, and other waterfowl there.


Ring-necked Duck


Gadwall


Gadwall


American Coot


American Wigeon


Northern Pintails and Gadwalls


Mallards


Double-crested Cormorant


Ruddy Duck


Northern Shoveler


Northern Shoveler

We saw several woodland bird species along the road. A small flock of brightly colored Bluebirds were feeding in the trees, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler didn't mind my being only a few feet away from it.


Northern Mockingbird


Eastern Bluebird


Yellow-rumped Warbler


Yellow-rumped Warbler


Yellow-rumped Warbler

After we started hiking on the Dutch Gap trail, we saw more woodland bird species, a Pied-billed Grebe, Hooded Mergansers, and Great Blue Herons.


Golden-crowned Kinglet


American Kestrel


Hooded Mergansers

Walt and I make a great birding pair. Walt has great eye-sight but can't hear high-frequency bird songs. My eye-sight isn't that great, but I have great high-frequency hearing. I usually tell Walt that I can hear various birds singing, and he finds them in the trees!

As we were hiking on the trail leading to the red metal bridge, we stopped near the fishing dock at mm 3.7 on the trail. Walt spotted a Great Blue Heron on the far side of the lake.


Great Blue Heron

And then Walt said, "What's that above the GBH?"


Great Blue Heron lower right; whitish object upper left

I raised my camera and lens to locate the object, and and immediately recognized it as a Great Horned Owl. We watched the owl for a few minutes and saw it turning its head in various directions, including 180 degrees, while it kept its body perfectly still. We decided to try to get closer for some better shots, but when I got within 50 feet of where they were perched, the Great Blue Heron let out a loud squawk and took off, and the Great Horned Owl quickly followed it.


Great Horned Owl


Great Horned Owl


Great Horned Owl


Great Horned Owl

Although we didn't see a Snowy Owl, the Great Horned Owl was neat to see, and all in all, it was a fun birding trip.

Today's list:

Pied-billed Grebe
Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
Gadwall
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Duck
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Hooded Merganser
Northern Shoveler
American Wigeon
Wild Turkey
American Coot
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

American Kestrel
Ring-billed Gull
Laughing Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker

Eastern Phoebe
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird

Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch



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