Shenandoah Valley, VA 1/20/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Dick Rowe (VMI Biology) had posted seeing a Rough-legged Hawk west of Brownsburg, Virginia, along New Providence Road between Hayes Creek Road and Pisgah Road. Although we had seen this species several times in the past, Walt Childs and I headed west over the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Shenandoah Valley this morning to look for this uncommon visitor to our neck of the woods. Walt saw one of the resident Red-shouldered Hawks here in Stoney Creek (Wintergreen) on the way to my house, and it was a harbinger of raptors to be seen this day.

We got onto I-64 at Afton Mountain (mm. 99), and between mm. 98 and mm. 94, we saw four Red-tailed Hawks, all perched on the north side of the interstate highway, each about a mile apart. A Great Blue Heron flew across the highway in this same area. We exited I-64/81 at Route 262, and then took Route 252 toward Brownsburg. Along the way, we saw two Sharp-shinned Hawks, and a pair of American Kestrels, in addition to other species such as Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, and Gadwall.


Sharp-shinned Hawk


American Kestrel

We turned onto New Providence Road, and soon after we passed Pisgah Road, we stopped when we saw the Rough-legged Hawk near the top of a distant tree. It appeared to be a light-morph female.


Rough-legged Hawk

After a couple of minutes it took off, and we headed south on New Providence Road to try to re-locate it. We didn't see it again, but saw two more Red-tailed Hawks before we got to Hayes Creek Road.


Red-tailed Hawk

We continued a short way past Hayes Creek Road, and saw the second Red-shouldered Hawk of the day.


Red-shouldered Hawk

We headed back north on New Providence Road, and turned northwest on Pisgah Road, and took it all the way to High Rock Road and then Walker Creek Road, and north to Swoope in Augusta County. Along the way, we saw more Red-tailed hawks and Kestrels.


Red-tailed Hawk


American Kestrel

When we turned onto Cattleman Road in Swoope, we saw more Red-tailed Hawks and Kestrels.


Red-tailed Hawks


American Kestrel

We stopped at Smith Lake (private property, permission required), and immediately saw one of the two resident Bald Eagles. There were Green-winged Teals and a few female Northern Pintails in the lake.


Bald Eagle

The Bald Eagle took off and was joined in flight by the other resident Bald Eagle. The pair flew to a tree near their nest, performed their "birds and the bees" activity, and then remained perched for some photos.


Bald Eagle


Bald Eagles


Bald Eagles

By the time we left the Swoope area, we had seen 30 raptors, not counting many Turkey Vultures seen this day: Rough-legged Hawk (1); Sharp-shinned Hawk (2); Red-shouldered Hawk (2); Bald Eagle (2); American Kestrel (11); Red-tailed Hawk (12). It was almost like being up at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch!

Our last stop of the outing was at the Invicta Pond in Waynesboro where we added three more species to the trip list. We felt confident that we would see the resident Black-crowned Night-Heron. We also saw a few American Coots and a large flock of Common and Lesser Canada Geese. We looked at some of the Lesser Canada Geese to see if any of them might be Cackling Geese, but didn't see any and stopped looking for them when I saw four Greater White-fronted Geese.


Black-crowned Night-Heron


Greater White-fronted Geese


Greater White-fronted Geese


Greater White-fronted Geese


Greater White-fronted Geese


Greater White-fronted Geese


Greater White-fronted Goose


Greater White-fronted Goose


Greater White-fronted Goose

We ended the trip with 35 avian species:

Great Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Greater White-fronted Goose
Canada Goose
Mallard
Gadwall
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
American Coot
Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Eastern Bluebird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Northern Cardinal
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
House Finch
American Goldfinch



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