Southeastern Virginia 5/21-22/14

All photos are Marshall Faintich

I traveled to Norfolk, Virginia, to give my "Birds of Wintergreen" presentation to the Cape Henry Audubon Society. Bob Ake was my host, and generously offered to let me spend the night at his house before going birding with him the next morning. Bob is an exceptional birder - not only is he extremely knowlegeable about birds, he has a remarkable capability to identify birds by their songs and calls. He is also the local expert on the Swainson's Warbler found in the nearby Great Dismal Swamp.

The Swainson's Warbler would be a life bird for me, and high on my target bird list, so I asked in advance if he would mind helping me to find one there. Prior to the evening presentation, we did some birding in his yard, where we saw some interesting birds.


Yellow-crowned Night Heron


Female Blackpoll Warbler


Male Blackpoll Warbler


Male Blackpoll Warbler


Cedar Waxwing and American Robin

We headed out early the next morning to one of the potential Swainson's Warbler sites. One of the other Cape Henry Audubon Society birders had seen one in that location a few days earlier. We stopped along a narrow road, and tall, dense trees on both sides of the road blocked most of the early morning sunlight, but I would be happy with just seeing a Swainson's Warbler and possibly getting any photo of one. As we walked along the road, Bob heard a Swainson's deep in the woods, and a few minutes later heard it closer to us. We walked back and forth trying to locate its position, and heard it move to a perch where it started to sing. We couldn't see it, and my hopes of seeing one diminished.

A few minutes later, we heard it again - this time closer to the road. All of a sudden, it popped up on a branch in front of us. It only stayed there for a short time before heading back into the woods. I knew that the poor light would mean grainy photos, but I hadn't counted on its being so close to me. My camera telephoto lens was set on longer range for the auto-focus, so I had to manually focus the lens as quickly as possible before the bird flew. I was able to get a few photos! The photo quality isn't that great, but at least I have the species on my photo list, and now my goal is to get a better shot of this difficult to photograph species.


Swainson's Warbler


Swainson's Warbler

After a high five on seeing the Swainson's Warbler, we headed over to Piney Grove. Bob wanted to find a Red-cockaded Woodpecker. I had been there once before, and hadn't seen a RCWP that time, but had since seen and photographed this species in Florida. We parked along the road, and walked quite a distance. There were quite a few birds singing, but we never saw a Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Highlights for me were a few warbler species and a male Summer Tanager. Although I had photographed a couple of female Summer Tanagers in the past few years, the last time that I saw a male Summer Tanager was in 1958! Most of the birds were either high up in trees, or perched with the sun behind them. This wasn't turning out to be a great photography trip, but the birding was sure fun.


Summer Tanager


Summer Tanager


Summer Tanager


Common Yellowthroat


Pine Warbler


Prairie Warbler


Prairie Warbler


Prairie Warbler


Yellow-throated Vireo


Yellow-throated Vireo


Yellow-throated Vireo


Yellow-throated Vireo


Eastern Wood-Pewee


Eastern Wood-Pewee


Brown-headed Nuthatch


Brown-headed Nuthatch


Blue Grosbeak


Eastern Towhee


Red-headed Woodpecker

After thanking Bob for his help, I headed for home. The temperature was in the low 90s and I was tired, but I stopped along the way at Dutch Gap south of Richmond. I wanted to see a Prothonotary Warbler there. There were a few good birds out in that early afternoon heat, and I stayed only for a short time.


Prothonotary Warbler


Eastern Kingbird


Immature Northern Mockingbird



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