Walt Childs and I decided to do some birding in Swoope in the Sheandoah Valley, but decided to first go north in that valley to see how the Great Horned Owlets were doing that we saw on March 12. To our dreat dismay, the nest was gone. Perhaps a strong wind took down the nest, as this year, it did not seem as large or sturdy as it was three years ago when we last saw owlets there. We continued on to the Sheandoah Valley Regional Airport, and then south to Swoope. On this outing, we saw 42 avian species, and the trip highlights were at the end of the outing. During this day, we saw 7 American Kestrels and 11 Red-tailed Hawks.
Male and female American Kestrels
We saw quite afew woodland and field species during this outing.
First year Red-winged Blackbird
When we got to Smith Lake in Swoope, I hiked down the south side. At first, all I saw were a few Song Sparrows. And then, large flocks of ducks flew from the west end of the lake. I was too far away to have spooked them.
Wood Ducks and Green-winged Teal
And then I saw why. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was circling over the lake.
We looped around North Mountain Road, and got a distant view of one of the Bald Eagles in their new nest.
Well, It had been a fairly good outing, but we were still upset about the Great Horned Owl nest, and hoped that the owlets had somehow survived. As we were leaving Swoope, and driving along Hewitt Road, we stopped when we saw about a dozen small blackbirds foraging in a wet, grassy area. We had already seen lots of Starlings, Common Grackles, and Red-winged Blackbirds, but these were different. They were all Rusty Blackbirds.
We stopped again a bit farther down the road. We had already heard a Belted Kingfisher earlier in the day, but this time we were fairly close to a female Belted Kingfisher fishing along a small creek. We watched her scanning the moving water, swooping down, and catching a meal - twice!
That's the right angle!
Great Blue Heron