Shenandoah Valley 12/7/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

A rainy cold front yesterday and last night ushered in temperatures that were 25 degrees colder than the day before, and snow plus significant ice accumulation is forecasted for tonight and tomorrow, so I wanted to squeeze in a birding trip today. It was supposed to be sunny, but it was overcast the entire day.

I couldn't decide whether to spend the day looking for the Snowy Owl in Rockingham County, or head to Swoope in Augusta County to look for what lake and shore birds may have been blown in from the north. I finally decided to do a 150 mile grand tour.

I drove first to the last known Snowy Owl sighting in Rockingham County, then worked my way south on country roads to Nazarene Wetlands, Natural Chimneys, and Swoope, and then did a quick check for birds in Stuart's Draft on the way home. There were very few birds to see for most of the trip until I got to Swoope - only seven species, and not a single bird at Nazarene.

By the time I got to Smith Lake in Swoope, I was rather disappointed, but seeing an Eastern Meadowlark in what looked like breeding plumage, unusual for this time of year, was a good harbinger of things to come.


Eastern Meadowlark

There were lots of birds in the lake and in the trees and vegetation around the lake.


Golden-crowned Kinglet


Song Sparrows


Field Sparrow

There were ducks in the lake, and three large flocks of Canada Geese.


Ring-necked Ducks


Green-winged Teal


Ruddy Duck

There were quite a few Mallards, and one of them was an unusual light brown in color.


Mallard


Mallard

The highlight of the trip was a Snow Goose that was swimming with one of the flocks of Canada Geese.


Snow Goose and Canada Geese


Snow Goose


Snow Goose


Snow Goose


Snow Goose and Canada Goose; note the size variation of the Mallards in the background.

As I headed toward the far side of the lake where the third flock of Canada Geese was swimming, I must have spooked them even though I was more than 100 yards away, and the entire flock took off, as did most of the Mallards in the lake.


Canada Geese

This triggered a quick exit by the second flock that included the Snow Goose, and about 10 minutes later, the third flock also took off, leaving only a few ducks in the lake. All three flocks of geese took off to the east, but the flock with the Snow Goose made a U-turn and headed west.


Snow Goose and Canada Geese


Snow Goose and Canada Geese


Snow Goose and Canada Geese heading west

I saw 18 species at Smith Lake, and added two more species driving around Swoope, as well as seeing my third Red-tailed Hawk of the day.


Red-tailed Hawk

I added four more species in Stuart's Draft, and three more American Kestrels. A White-breasted Nuthatch at my feeder when I got home made my 34th species of the day.


American Kestrel


White-crowned Sparrow

Today's list:

Canada Goose
Snow Goose
Mallard
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Duck
Green-winged Teal
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Meadowlark
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow




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