Shenandoah Valley, VA, 3/29/16

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Dick Rowe, a VMI biology professor and friend of mine, had read my report from 3/23 when Walt Childs and I went to Reddish Knob a saw a pair of male Red Crossbills. Dick went up there over the weekend and saw a flock of 25 to 30 of them that included both males and females. I had some really good photos of male Red Crossbills, but wanted to get better photos of females of this species, so I went back there to try again.

I stopped first at Nazarenne Wetlands, and saw a few ducks and American Coots along with the usual Canada Geese, Tree Swallows, and Red-winged Blackbirds. There were a couple of Mallards, four American Wigeons, and a female Ring-necked Duck. The female Ring-necked Duck had all the markings of an adult female, but also a prominent white bill ring that looked more like that of a male, so perhaps it was an immature male rather than a female??

American Wigeons

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

Ring-necked Duck

I arrived at the four road intersection on Briary Branch Road at 11:40, where one of the roads turns sharply left to go up to the Reddish Knob summit. This is the most likely place in the area to find Red Crossbills as they like to land in the gravel area next to the road to ingest some grit. Sure enough, two male Red Crossbills were there on a low branch of a tree. I think that they were the same two that I saw on 3/23, as one of them was fairly red, and the other orange-red. A few minutes later, two ornithology students from James Madison University stopped to look for the Crossbills after reading Dick Rowe's and my postings, and they got some good looks at the birds. About 10 minutes later, another car pulled up and parked where the Crossbills were perched. It was a birder from Loudoun County who had driven there to see a life bird. Unfortunately, he had driven so close to the birds that they flew back into the woods before he got out of his car. We heard the Crossbills singing, but locate couldn't them.

The two students left after a while, and the Loudoun birder pulled his car over next to mine, and we waited. And then a birder from Fairfax arrived to see them. The three of us waited for quite a while, and didn't see or hear the Crossbills. At 12:45, I said that I would stay until 1:00, as I had already seen them, and it didn't look like there was going to be a large flock of them containing some female birds. At 12:55, one of the male Red Crossbills re-appeared, and a couple of minutes later, two birders from Charlottesville arrived, and they got to see the Crossbills as well. So I know of at least six birders who got a life bird when I was there.

Red Crossbills

Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill

This morning (3/30), I read a posting from Ed & Nancy Lawler, that they had seen three Red Crossbills at that same location between 11:00 and 11:15 yesterday, and one of them was a female, so I just missed seeing the female Crossbill.

I then drove south to Swoope, and saw one American Kestrel, one Red-tailed Hawk, a Great Blue Heron, and lots of blackbird/starling species along the way.

American Kestrel

When I got to Swoope, I stopped at Smith Lake and saw a few duck species. Both resident Bald Eagles were in their nest.

Green-winged Teals

Male Green-winged Teal

Female Green-winged Teal

Green-winged and Blue-winged Teals

Blue-winged Teal

Wood Duck

Bald Eagles

I drove around Swoope a bit before heading home, and saw another Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

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