King George County, VA, 11/11/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Before I proceed with this trip report, I want to share a photo of an American Crow having a seafood lunch on the Rockfish Valley Trail on 11/10/15.


American Crow having a seafood lunch

There had been reports over the past few days of Sandhill Cranes, a Golden Eagle, and a Hudsonian Godwit in King George County just east of Fredericksburg, Virginia. I had previously seen Sandhill Cranes in Florida, and Golden Eagles in a couple of Virginia locations, but the Hudsonian Godwit would have been a life bird for me. I had a mid-morning appointment in Charlottesville and asked Walt Childs if he wanted to come along, and we could go from there to King George County to look for these birds.

The plan was to arrive there around noon, but it took us about 50 minutes to get through Fredericksburg. I lived there in 1971-74 when the Fredericksburg population was 13,000, but the city itself has grown to 28,000+, and with the surrounding suburbs, it is now 120,000+. We encountered major traffic jams, and didn't arrive at the birding sites until 1:00 p.m.

There were two locations we wanted to visit. The first was along Lagrange Road just off Route 3. The road was public, but the very large ponds on each side of the road were on private property, and we had to bird from the road. The other site was Farley Vale, about 1/4 mile west of Lagrange Road, where there was another large pond. The owner was allowing birders to get off of Route 3 there, but asked birders to stay just off Route 3, and not drive farther down their private road.

When we arrived at the Lagrange road site, the large ponds on the east side of the road were filled with hundreds of ducks and some Canada Geese. Most of the ducks were Ring-necked, but we saw a few Buffleheads as well.


Ring-necked Ducks

The large pond on the west side of the road was not as "birdy," and we were looking directly into the sun. We saw a few Tundra Swans, more Canada Geese, some distant ducks, and a few other birds. The Hudsonian Godwit had been reported on this side of the road, and finding it was going to be a challenge.


Tundra Swans


Great Blue Heron

We saw a few sandpipers as we searched through openings in small trees, but we couldn't see any that we could confirm as the Hudsonian Godwit, although one of the sandpipers did seem to have a slightly upturned bill and a heavy chest. All of these sandpipers were probably Greater Yellowlegs. (Note: we read later that the Hudsonian Godwit had been seen that morning, but at the far side of that large pond, and using spotting scopes from the road.)


Sandpiper


Sandpiper


Sandpiper


Sandpiper

We saw a few Laughing Gulls fly overhead, two Bald Eagles, and a distant Red-tailed Hawk that looked to me to have very long wings.


Laughing Gull


Laughing Gull


A "laughing" Laughing Gull


Bald Eagles


Red-tailed Hawk

We had a fairly close encounter with an adult male "Gray Ghost" Northern Harrier, but it was brief and I couldn't get any really good photos of it.


Northern Harrier

It was getting close to 3:00 p.m., and we decided to go to Farley Vale so we could get some late afternoon birding in there before making the 2-1/2 hour drive home. The first thing we noticed were hundreds of gulls - probably all Laughing Gulls.


Laughing Gulls

We were far from most of the birds there, and saw several sandpiper species, but the only ones we could identify with certainty were Killdeers. What was really impressive were the Bald Eagles - we counted at least 11 of them at this site. Below are a few photos of the eagles.


Bald Eagles


Bald Eagles


Bald Eagles


Bald Eagles

We saw four Sandhill Cranes.


Sandhill Cranes


Sandhill Cranes and a Bald Eagle

We were getting ready to leave when I saw a female Northern Harrier flying over some of the small islands in the pond. It came to rest on a tree post, and then took off, headed right towards us, and then made a very close approach.


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier



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