Walt Childs met me at my house in Old Trail to do some birding in Augusta and southern Rockingham County in the Shenandoah Valley. Before heading west, we stopped for a short while to look for the rare Clay-colored Sparrow here in Old Trail. This sparrow was hanging around with a small flock of White-crowned Sparrow at the northwest end of the soccer field in Western Park. We didn't see it, but I got some good looks at Lincoln's Sparrow; a species that I haven't seen for a couple of years.
Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow
Adult White-crowned Sparrow
We started birding in Augusta County on Strickley Road, and made our way to the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport, and then to Leonard's Pond in southern Rockingham County. Along the way, we some some good woodland and pond species, and added Killdeers at Leonard's Pond.
But it was the raptors that made the day. At first, we saw a male American Kestrel followed by a female.
We stopped along one of the country farm roads at 11:05 a.m., when I spotted a very distant raptor circling to gain altitude. It was far away, but its flat wings told me that it wasn't a vulture. I got a few photos of it circling, and then a few more as it got closer. It was a juvenile Northern Goshawk (my life bird # 671). In previous years, I may have seen this species twice, and heard its call a couple of times, but could not get a visual or a long enough look for a positive identification. In the following photos of it circling, notice the pale upper wing bar, the irregular dark bands on it upper tail, and its massive chest.
In the few photos I got if it as it flew a bit closer, notice the massive chest and broader secondary wing feathers tapering to narrower wing tips. Its white supercillium (eye brow) is visible.
A few minutes later, we saw an adult Bald Eagle as it flew away from where we were.
Adult Bald Eagle
That was soon followed by a sub-adult (Basic I) Bald Eagle. Note the mix of longer juvenile wing feathers with the shorter adult feathers.
Sub-adult (Basic I) Bald Eagle
Soon after that, we sw two more Bald Eagles (a juvenile and a Basic II sub-adult)
Sub-adult (Basic II) Bald Eagle
Juvenile and a sub-adult (Basic II) Bald Eagles
Interestingly, A juvenile Northern Goshawk was spotted at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch at 12:30 p.m., and four Bald Eagles (2 adults around 11:30, and two more, one of which was an adult, at 2:30 p.m.). I wonder if any of these were the same birds that we saw?
We finished with three Red-tailed Hawks. The first one was boldly, dark-colored, and most likely a "Northern Race" Red-tailed.