Walt Childs and I headed out to Swoope, southwest of Staunton, to check out migrating shorebirds, and planned to stop at a few other places on the way home. After a couple of days of rain and north-easterly winds, it was possible that some interesting birds may have been blown in from the east coast.
As soon as we turned onto Hewitt Road, we saw some birds perched on a wire that really baffled us until we checked our bird book - they were molting juvenile Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Molting juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird
Farther down the road we saw a male Belted Kingfisher, and then encountered mixed Barn and Tree Swallows flying everywhere, and some were perched on wires. I had seen Cliff Swallows in that location multiple times this summer. I saw a pair of Swallows sitting side-by-side on one of the wires. The first one appeared to be a juvenile Barn Swallow - slightly forked tail and clean rufous undertail.
Male Belted Kingfisher
Juvenile Barn Swallow
But the swallow sitting next to it look a bit peculiar. In the field I thought it was another Barn Swallow, as I didn't see the white forehead of a Cliff Swallow, and it had a clean, non-spotted undertail. The photograph, however, clearly shows the dark throat of a Cliff Swallow, and there is no evidence of a forked tail.
We saw a few more bird species before we stopped at Smith Lake (on private land, and permission required to enter the property). We saw a few common species on the fences and in the trees. Another Kingfisher and all three swallow species were flying over the lake. We saw a few shore birds: Killdeers, Spotted Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpipers, and Least Sandpipers. A few of the Solitary Sandpipers had weak eye-rings, and I thought at first that they might ahve been Lesser Yellowlegs, but soon discounted that attribution.
Spotted Sandpiper (non-breeding plumage)
We saw a Great Blue Heron and a Green Heron, and then Walt spotted a Great Egret on the far corner of the lake.
I walked down to the west end of the lake, and then on the way back stopped to see if I could get some better photos of the Great Egret. All of a sudden, I saw a large bird flying toward the Egret, and although I knew immediately what it was, my brain didn't accept the species ID for a few moments. I called out to Walt, "Glossy Ibis!" I had previously taken some good, close-up photos of this species in Florida, but had never seen one in Virginia, and they are rare here.
Glossy Ibis and Great Egret
A few minutes later, the Great Egret flew up and landed on a roof top across the lake, and then the Glossy Ibis landed in a shallow area in the middle of the lake to do some fishing.
We did a little more birding before leaving Swoope, and ended up with 27 species there. We saw an Empidonax Flycatcher that looked to us to be a Least Flycatcher, but its eye-ring wasn't very bold.
Empidonax (Least?) Flycatcher
Great Blue Heron
After leaving Swoope, we went to Nazarenne Wetlands, and then to a couple of places in Bridigewater. We didn't see much at these locations, but added another eight species to the trip list:
This molting Cardinal looked a bit sad
Our last stop was at the Shennangoah Valley Regional Airport where we saw a flock of nine Horned Larks.