Shenandoah Valley, VA, 11/20/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

It was chilly, but bright and sunny, and there was a good breeze that made it feel much colder. Walt Childs and I headed west over the Blue Ridge Mountains to explore the Shenandoah Valley. The brisk winds kept many of the smaller birds under cover, but the bigger birds were having a field day!

We decided to go first to Swoope southwest of Staunton, Virginia. Along the way, we saw a Red-tailed Hawk and a Red-shouldered Hawk, as well as a few other species. Once we got to Swoope, we stopped at a plowed field along Hewitt Road, and saw a lone Horned Lark foraging for breakfast. When we got to Smith Lake, we saw only a few smaller birds, but there were a 200+ Canada Geese and 30 to 40 Mallards on the lake. After a few minutes, all of the ducks and geese took off.


Canada Geese


Mallard


Mallards


Mallard

We saw a distant Northern Harrier, and then a distant Red-tailed Hawk. As we drove around Swoope, we encountered a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, and four American Kestrels.


Red-tailed Hawk

We weren't very far from the Augusta Springs Wetlands, so we went there after driving around Swoope, but only saw a few woodland birds, and not a single water bird.


Carolina Chickadee

We decided to head north and a bit east, but decided to take Hewitt Road through Swoope on the way. We wanted to see if there were any more Horned Larks, or perhaps some American Pipits, on that plowed field. We stopped at the field, and immediately saw a Northern Harrier; perhaps the same distant one we had seen from Smith Lake. The Northern Harrier swooped down into the field, grabbed a mouse, took off and then circled back before settling down for its lunch. This harrier was the highlight of the day's outing.


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier

We went up to Mt. Crawford where we saw a small flock of Green-winged Teals and a few Killdeers, and then made our way back south and east. We stopped at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport, and saw a male American Kestrel and a female American Kestrel on adjacent power line sections, each having a meal.


Female American Kestrel


Male American Kestrel

We decided to make our last stop along Strickley Road near New Hope, Virginia. This is a good site for Horned Larks, and other birds such as Pipits and Longspurs that might be with the larks. Along the way, we saw a Cooper's Hawk, but it was heading away from us.


Cooper's Hawk

We stopped the car on Strickley Road, and less than five feet from the car, I saw a Horned Lark perched on a rock. It seemed to be pre-occupied with something in the field - turned out he was watching junior!


Horned Lark


Horned Lark


Horned Lark


Immature Horned Lark



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