Shenandoah Valley, VA, 12/8/15

All photos are Marshall Faintich

I hadn't planned on going birding today, but a change in Alice's and my schedule opened up the day to look for some birds. There had been a report of a couple of Lapland Longspurs mixed in with a large flock of Horned Larks along Nicholson Road in Elkton. I gave Walt Childs a call, and he was willing to go along to look for them. We got a late start. It was 9:30 by the time we left Nellysford under bright sunny skies, but there was dense fog on Route 340 north of Grottoes. By the time we got to Elkton, the fog had started to clear, so an earlier start would not have been productive, anyway.

Unfortunately, there was a large grader going up and down Nicholson Road all morning, so birds were scarce there. We did explore Model Road at the end of Nicholson Road, and past the railroad tracks and south of the school road, we encounter a huge flock of blackbirds (~200). Almost all of them were Brown-headed Cowbirds.


Brown-headed Cowbirds


Brown-headed Cowbird

There were a few other blackbird species mixed in with this flock, including a few first-year Red-winged Blackbirds, and at least one Rusty Blackbird.


Red-winged Blackbird


Red-winged Blackbird


Rusty Blackbird

We continued birding along Model Road, and by the time we left, we had logged 18 avian species, including a pair of distant Red-tailed Hawks.


Red-tailed Hawk


American Kestrel


Savannah Sparrow


Yellow-rumped Warbler

We birded a few other areas near Elkton, and then drove south to the Augusta County farm roads east of Battlefield Road, where we had seen eight raptor species five days ago. Soon after turning onto Craig Shop Road, we saw another Red-tailed Hawk in the same trees we had seen one on our last visit there - probably the same hawk.


Red-tailed Hawk

We wondered if we would see the same male Northern Harrier as well, a bit farther west on this road. We did see one flying over the same field, but this time it was an adult female. At one point, it appeared that it was trying to catch one of the Rock Pigeons that was foraging in that field.


Northen Harrier


Northen Harrier

We decided to end the outing with a stop on Strickley Road to look for Horned Larks and any pipits or longspurs that might be with the larks. We saw a few more avian species on the way there, and a small flock of Horned Larks along Strickley Road. We ended the day with about 30 species.


White-crowned Sparrow


Horned Larks



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