With overnight and early morning temperatures in the upper 20s, and with ducks migrating through the area, I thought that smaller ponds might be frozen, and waterfowl would be congregating at larger lakes with open water. Walt Childs and I decided to try Willow Lake in Raphine, and then head up to Smith Lake in Swoope. We started off driving through some farm roads in Stuart's Draft where we saw a few common species and two Red-tailed Hawks. One of the hawks was on the ground and appeared to have very dark and heavy belly stripes, and I wondered if it were a northern race subspecies.
We made a quick stop at McCormick's Mill in Raphine where we added a few more species to the trip, including an adult Cooper's Hawk, as well as our third Red-tailed Hawk of the day.
Willow Lake was loaded with ducks. We first saw numerous Canada Geese, some Ring-necked Ducks, American Coots, and a Black Swan. The Black Swan was certainly an escaped bird. I had seen one, and once two of them, in Crozet on several occasions during the past few years, but not for some time, and wondered if this swan was one of the two that I had seen in Crozet.
Gadwall, Redheads, and American Wigeons
Gadwall, Redheads, and Canvasbacks
Gadwalls, Redheads, and Canvasbacks
Gadwalls, Redheads, and Pied-billed Grebe
From there, we headed west and south to look for raptors. We stopped by the creek along Wade's Mill to look for a Great Blue Heron that is usually nearby, and saw it.
Great Blue Heron
We turned south on New Providence Road to look for raptors, and saw our first of two Red-shouldered Hawks for the day, another Red-tailed Hawk, a few woodland species, Turkey Vultures, and a small flock of Black Vultures perched on the roof of a house.
Adult and juvenile Black Vultures
This area was fairly quiet compared with other birding trips there, and we then headed north along Walker Creek to Swoope. We saw our first two of seven American Kestrels along the way, some Greater White-fronted Geese that were most likely domestic birds, and a few other woodland species.
Greater White-fronted Geese
As we approached Swoope, we saw our only Northern Harrier of this trip. An adult female was flying low searching for a meal, and it looks like she caught a field mouse.
Once in Swoope, we stopped at Smith Lake where we have permission to enter the private property. At first, we saw six Common Mergansers.
I started to hike along the lake, and didn't see any more ducks, but soon heard a lot of Mallards pitching a fit. A juvenile Red-tailed Hawk was flying over the lake.
All of a sudden, ducks took off from the far end of the lake! There were at least 100 Mallards, 4 Wood Ducks, 4 Hooded Mergansers, and a small flock of Green-winged Teals.
Mallards and a Green-winged Teal
We looped around on North Mountain Road and located the new Bald Eagle's nest that was built after the tree with their nest near Smith Lake came down. One of the eagles was sitting in the nest, presumably on eggs or with little ones.
We ended the trip in Swoope with another Red-tailed Hawk, and another American Kestrel, and saw two more Red-tailed Hawks after leaving Swoope.
Our avian trip list for this day totaled 48 species (including the Black Swan and Greater White-fronted Geese), and within this list, there were 8 raptor species and 19 water/shore bird species.
Greater White-fronted Goose
Great Blue Heron