James River State Park, VA, 11/27/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Where have all the ducks gone? There were lots of ducks here in Central Virginia at the beginning of this week, but most of them seem to have gone from the entire area. It was warm and sunny, and Walt Childs and I drove south and east to the James River State Park. This has always been a good area to see a variety of duck species in the large wetland area there.

We exited route 60 onto the seven mile drive along the James River to the park entrance. This road has been a good place to see Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks. And we were not disappointed. A short way down the road we stopped to get a good, but distant, look at a Sub-adult, Basic II Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

We saw a Red-tailed Hawk a bit farther down the road, and it was soon joined by another Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawks

Once we entered the park, we headed first to the wetland area. We were disappointed to see that all of the brush along the north end had been cut down to the ground. This had been a great place to see Swamp Sparrows and other species. The resident Belted Kingfisher was there, but we saw only one duck - a female Hooded Merganser.

Belted Kingfisher

Hooded Merganser

We did see a few Swamp Sparrows in the weeds near the north end, and several avian species along the river path.

Swamp Sparrow

Downy Woodpecker

We saw some more sparrows and other woodland birds near the boat ramp, and then visited a small pond about a mile from the main park drive, but all we saw there were a few Dark-eyed Juncos and two Pied-billed Grebes.

Song Sparrow

By the time we left the park, we had 28 avian species on our trip list, and decided to try Lake Nelson on the way back towards home. There was a Red-tailed Hawk on the west side of the James River directly across from the park's boat ramp. As soon as it took flight, it was mobbed by crows. We stopped at one point on a back road where we added Cedar Waxwings to the trip list. Lake Nelson always seems to have ducks and Killdeers there, but all we saw there were a pair of Ruddy Ducks and some resident, barnyard Mallards, and not a single Killdeer.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Cedar Waxwing

Ruddy Ducks


Our last stop was a quick one at the Rockfish Valley Trail, were we added our 32nd trip bird - a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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