Swoope, VA + 8/14/14

All photos are Marshall Faintich


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.

Cliff/Barn(?) Swallow

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.

Solitary Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper (non-breeding plumage)

Least Sandpiper

We saw a Great Blue Heron and a Green Heron, and then Walt spotted a Great Egret on the far corner of the lake.

Green Heron

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

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.

Great Egret

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

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

Swoope species:

Great Egret
Green Heron
Glossy Ibis
Turkey Vulture
American Kestrel
Solitary Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Belted Kingfisher
Eastern Kingbird
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch
Great Blue Heron
Song Sparrow
Mourning Dove
Chipping Sparrow
Indigo Bunting
Northern Mockingbird
Emidonax Flycatcher
Cedar Waxwing

Trip Home

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:

House Sparrow
Wood Duck
Eastern Meadowlark
Blue Jay
Northern Cardinal
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Canada Goose

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.

Horned Lark

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