Shenandoah Valley, VA 2/23/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

It has been cold and snowy for a week, and Walt Childs and I headed west over the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Shenandoah valley to look for birds that might be foraging along the road shoulders where snow had melted. We got a late start, as we left the Rockfish Valley at 10:00 a.m. Within four hours we only had about 25 avian species, but we saw some great birds.

As we drove north on Route 340 from Waynesboro, we stopped when we saw a male and a female American Kestrel perched on a power line.


American Kestrels

We got off of Route 340 to check out Strickley Road to look for Horned Larks and possible rarer birds that might be with them, but the fields were snow covered. We continued on Rockfish Road, and then Patterson Mill Road, and then we got onto some really remote country roads, and hoped that we didn't get stuck on the icy roads. Along the way we saw more Kestrels, a couple of flocks of Horned Larks, several Eastern Meadowlarks, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, and various other species, including five sparrow species foraging together.


American Kestrel


American Kestrel


Red-tailed Hawks


Fox Sparrow


Fox Sparrow


Immature White-crowned Sparrow


Adult White-crowned Sparrow


Savannah Sparrow


Five sparrow species: Savannah Sparrow, White-throated, Fox, White-crowned, and Dark-eyed Junco


Eastern Meadowlark


Eastern Meadowlarks


Horned Larks


Horned Larks

[2/24/15 Update]: Gabriel Mapel emailed me that he thought that there was another Lapland Longspur mixed in with the photo of Horned Larks before we got to the airport - I think that we were on Craig Shop Road at the time. I took another look at the full resolution photo, and he was correct! Helps to have young eyes.


[Update] Lapland Longspur

A Red-shouldered Hawk flew right in front of the car with a mouse in its talons, but it was too quick for me to get a photo. A few miles down the road, we saw another Red-shouldered Hawk, and this one had a partially eaten squirrel or small fox in its talons.


Red-shouldered Hawk


Red-shouldered Hawk


Red-shouldered Hawk

Our last stop was at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport. As we drove into the airport, we saw another flock of Horned Larks, and then three Lapland Longspurs. Lapland Longspurs are rare winter visitors to central Virginia, and I have never seen more than two of them in one location.


Horned Lark


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspurs


Three Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspurs

As we were driving out of the airport, we saw another flock of Horned Larks farther to the west of the first flock, and there were at least five more Lapland Longspurs mixed in with the Horned Larks - that made eight [update: nine] Lapland Longspurs, and possibly more than that.


Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks


Lapland Longspur and Horned Lark


[UPDATE: Probably a Smith's Longspur and the first record of one in Virginia]


[UPDATE: Probably a Smith's Longspur and the first record of one in Virginia]


Two Lapland Longspurs and Horned Lark


Three Lapland Longspurs and Horned Lark


Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspur


Four Lapland Longspurs


Four Lapland Longspurs


Four Lapland Longspurs


Three Lapland Longspurs


Three Lapland Longspurs


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur


Lapland Longspur

Just after we made the turn out of the airport, we saw some sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks, and then a Northern Harrier flew from a ditch right in front of us, and then down the other side of a ridge.


Eastern Meadowlark


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier

A few White-crowned Sparrows bid us farewell as we drove past the airport on our way home.


Adult White-crowned Sparrow



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