Shenandoah Valley 12/13/13

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Yesterday, I posted, Where have all the ducks gone? Well, today I found them! Special thanks go to Dick Rowe, Biology professor at VMI. Dick had posted on the Virginia birding listserver that he had seen a Long-tailed Duck at Willow Lake yesterday morning. Dick had told me on a few previous occasions about Willow Lake, but I had never been there before. Yesterday afternoon I e-mailed him to ask him how to get to Willow Lake, as the Long-tailed Duck would be a life bird for me, and I might try to get there this morning to look for it. Not only did he respond with directions to Willow Lake in Raphine, Virginia, he went back to see if this duck were still there yesterday afternoon, and it was.

Raphine is located only 16 miles south of where I get off I-81 to go birding in Swoope, so I decided to try my luck finding the Long-tailed Duck, and then head over to Swoope. I arrived at Willow Lake about 10:00, and saw a Tundra Swan on the other side of the lake that was swimming over to join up with a pair of Mallards. There were four female Buffleheads far to the south on the lake, and a small flock of Ruddy Ducks near shore where I had parked.


Tundra Swan


Female Buffleheads


Male Ruddy Duck


Female Ruddy Duck

I didn't see the Long-tailed Duck, and my hopes of seeing my life bird #519 and my 55th life bird of 2013 started to fade. Just then, the Long-tailed Duck popped up close to where I was standing!


Long-tailed Duck


Long-tailed Duck


Long-tailed Duck


Long-tailed Duck


Long-tailed Duck


Long-tailed Duck and Ruddy Duck


Long-tailed Duck and Ruddy Duck

After taking many more photos of the duck than I needed, I headed over to Swoope. As I was driving on Hewitt Road, I saw a male American Kestrel dive down into a field, catch some breakfast, and then munch on it while perched on a power line. It then flew across the road, and kited in the strong wind above another field.


Male American Kestrel


Male American Kestrel


Male American Kestrel

When I arrived at Smith Lake, I saw that the lake was filled with ducks from about the middle of the lake to the far end. Most of them looked like Mallards, but I also saw some smaller ducks that were Green-winged Teals, and I stopped counting the ducks when I got to 100! I headed toward them to get some photos, but when I was about 200 yards away, all but a few of the Mallards took off, and the Green-winged Teals soon followed. The sky was filled with flying ducks. I thought that all of them were going to fly away, but they broke up into smaller flocks, and the flocks headed in many directions. A good number of them flew right over my head.


Ducks!


Mallards


Green-winged Teals


Mallard


Mallards


Green-winged Teals


Green-winged Teals


Green-winged Teals


Male Green-winged Teal


Female Green-winged Teal


Green-winged Teals


Green-winged Teals


Green-winged Teals

Well, it really had been a ducky day for me! On my way out of Swoope, I stopped and took some photos from my car of a female American Kestrel. I have been trying for several years to get a good close-up photo of a female of this species, and now I can put that goal to rest.


Female American Kestrel


Female American Kestrel


Female American Kestrel



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