Shenandoah Valley 10/17/14

All photos are Marshall Faintich


Walt Childs and I headed west over the Blue Ridge Mountains this morning and into the Shenandoah Valley. Our first stop was in Swoope, southwest of Staunton. As soon as we turned off of Cedar Green Road onto Hewitt Road (Route 703), we saw a couple of sparrows perched on a wire. I was only able to get off a couple of shots from the vibrating car and looking into the sun before they flew away, but my best guess is that they were Vesper Sparrows.


Vesper Sparrow

Our usual route is to take Hewitt Road all the way west to Cattleman Road, but the road was closed just past Glebe School Road, so we turned there to get to the other end of Cattleman, and we were lucky that we did. A short distance down Glebe School Road, we saw a young Bald Eagle perched on a post.


Juvenile Bald Eagle

A pair of Bald Eagles have a nest off of Cattleman Road, and I have photographed them and two juveniles on previous visits. (See for example, Swoope, VA 7/4/14 - 3 Bald Eagles!).

The juvenile Bald Eagle then took off and flew to the south and out of view. I could see that it was starting to get some of its Basic I white breast feathers.


Juvenile Bald Eagle

I walked over the crest of a hill in the road, and then saw all four of the Bald Eagles. One adult and one juvenile were on the ground in a field, and the other two were flying to the east. The adult on the ground flew to a tree, and the juvenile with it took off. And then the non-perched Bald Eagles circled around in the sky. One of the youngsters was now fully in its Basic I plumage, showing mostly adult flight wing feathers with a few longer juvenile feathers. The flying adult still had a bit of sub-adult, Basic IV brown tail feathers, and appeared to be molting its facial feathers.


Adult Bald Eagle


Basic I Bald Eagle


Basic I Bald Eagle


Basic I Bald Eagle


Basic I Bald Eagle


Basic I Bald Eagle


Sub-adult, Basic IV Bald Eagle


Sub-adult, Basic IV Bald Eagle

And then, we saw a pair of Northern Harriers crusing low over a field next to us.


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier

We saw two more Northern Harriers in the Swoope area, as well as five American Kestrels, and three Red-tailed Hawks.


American Kestrels

We stopped at Smith Lake (on private property where we have permission to go birding), and saw only one shorebird - a Lesser Yellowlegs, and a flock of geese. Most of the geese were Canada, but a few of them were smaller with stubbier bills, and were either Lesser Canada Geese, or Cackling Geese.


Lesser Yellowlegs


Canada and Lesser Canada/Cackling Geese


Lesser Canada/Cackling Goose

There were several smaller birds in the vegetation around the lake, and four, late season Tree Swallows.


Song Sparrow


Savannah Sparrow


Savannah Sparrow


Common Yellowthroat


Tree Swallow

We left the Swoope area with 31 avian species on our list, and headed north to Mt. Crawford to see if we could find the Red Phalarope that had been reported in a pond off of Oakwood Road. I had seen this species twice before, but both times were in the North Atlantic Ocean, and this species is rare here. We did see the Red Phalarope, along with Killdeers, Mallards, and a couple of Green-winged Teals.


Red Phalarope

We went to Nazarene Wetlands, but all we saw there were a few more Killdeers, some Canada Geese, and a nice sized flock of Eastern Meadowlarks.


Eastern Meadowlarks


Eastern Meadowlark

Stops at Leonard's Pond and the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport on the way home didn't add any new species to the trip list.


Killdeer



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